Blakeson - Writer

Cardiff-based film, theatre and gig reviews, cultural ramblings, whingeing, short films, etc.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

"Mr & Mrs Laughton" / "Cosy" / British Dance Edition

The “A Play, A Pie and A Pint” programme, from Glasgow’s Òran Mór, paid its third visit to Cardiff’s Sherman Cymru last week, with “Mr and Mrs Laughton”, Michael-Alan Read’s play about the marriage of legendary actors Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester; a relationship which was somewhat complicated by his homosexuality, not to mention his egotism. Obviously, at less than 40 minutes, there were many areas that weren’t addressed (mostly to do with their work) but the performances were powerful, and it was very entertaining. Sadly, however, the inclusive drink option (the “Pint” element of the deal) didn’t include cider (although the cheese pie was tasty).

Less fun, but probably more momentous was “Cosy”, the latest from Kaite O’Reilly, in the  Weston Studio at the Wales Millennium Centre. A family drama, this focusses on Sharon Morgan’s elderly Rose who brings together her bickering daughters in order to inform them that she wishes to take her own life before ill health robs her of the ability to make the choice. The fact that the central character is painted as a not especially caring mother makes it quite hard to empathise, but it was all very well done, with Sara Beer shining as her sarcastic, disabled friend who is less well disposed to euthanasia.

Candoco (photo - Hugo Glendinning) 

Most recently was another event at the W.M.C., this time in the main arena, as the British Dance Edition, an international trade show for the contemporary dance industry hit town. Mostly consisting of invite-only showcases for producers and promoters, there were a couple of public performances, including the one I attended – a triple bill featuring National Contemporary Dance Wales (with “Tuplet”, a piece I saw a few weeks ago at the Sherman), Candoco, a company which integrates disabled and non-disabled performers, and the internationally renowned Hofesh Shechter Company. All quite fascinating, and only occasionally baffling. There was another treat beforehand, in the foyer area – a piece by Reckless Sleepers, which consisted of five women destroying the chairs they were sitting on using saws, which seemed to be an unlikely crowd-pleaser.  

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Monday, March 07, 2016

Dirty, Gifted and Welsh 2016 / "Meet Fred" / "St. Nicholas" / "Hail Caesar"

I attended the latest “Dirty, Gifted and Welsh” event, a festival of new writing put on by Dirty Protest Theatre Company, in collaboration with National Theatre Wales at Cardiff’s Angel Hotel. There were plenty of scratch performances, but I focussed on the panel sessions: one involving the BBC’s Helen Perry on breaking into radio drama; another in which writers Alan Harris, Kath Chandler and Matt Hartley discussed building relationships with theatre companies and the value of play-writing competitions; and visiting dramatist Bryony Lavery discussing her varied career and writing process. All very thought-provoking. Later on, there was a presentation of nine short plays by writers established and new – there was a wide variation in quality, and some editing would not have gone amiss, but it was enjoyable all in all, and it was good to see familiar TV faces like Keiron Self and Siwan Morris involved. There was also a reading of Mark Williams’ “A New Hope”, a family drama based around the set of a “Star Wars” movie, which sounded promising.

My first reviewing assignment of the week was “Meet Fred” from Hijinx at Chapter – a very clever take on disability, using a foul-mouthed puppet to discuss the issue without mentioning the issue. And then there was the latest from The Other Room – “St. Nicholas”, Conor McPherson’s droll take on theatre criticism and vampirism starring the versatile Christian Patterson.

"Meet Fred"

And then there is the small matter of the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen. “Hail Caesar” tells the story of a day or so in the busy life of fictionalised Hollywood production executive Eddie Mannix (played by Josh Brolin), whose job it is to clean up the various messes into which his stars get themselves. Set in the early 1950s, at the same studio at which their “Barton Fink” was situated, the plot focusses on the kidnapping of George Clooney’s pompous leading man by a gang of Communist screenwriters; but the unwelcome pregnancy of Scarlett Johanssen’s baby-faced aquatic starlet, and the dubious acting skills of Alden Ehrenreich’s not-quite-as-dumb-as-he-appears singing cowboy (the “Would that it were” scene will always be funny) also figure. Looking magnificent (courtesy of cinematographer Roger Deakins), scripted and assembled with the Coens’ customary meticulousness, and with a wonderful cast (Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton and Channing Tatum are especially impressive), there are moments at which the film looks as though it will turn out to be nothing more than a sequence of witty set-pieces; the plot does knit together cleverly towards the end, however. Consistently amusing, “Hail Caesar” is an only slightly satirical love-letter to classical Hollywood story-telling.

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