Blakeson - Writer

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

Friday, October 28, 2016

"Blackbird" / Artes Mundi 7

David Harrower’s Olivier Award-winning play “Blackbird”, from Those Two Impostors, is the latest piece being hosted by The Other Room Theatre, and my most recent reviewing assignment. The tale of a young woman confronting the middle-aged man with whom she had a sexual relationship when she was 12, it is very well acted, but I found it a tad troubling in its apparent even-handedness.

"Blackbird" (photo: Kirsten McTernan)

Also opening in the past week has been Artes Mundi – the 7th edition of the biennial, international art prize, exhibiting in Cardiff. I went to see those elements of it which are at the National Museum, and while there was plenty of interesting stuff on offer – I experienced only a few minutes of John Akomfrah’s migration-themed installation films, and Amy Franceschini’s ambitious “Future Farmers” project looked interesting - the most immediately arresting piece was Bedwyr Williams large-scale “slow” video “Tyrrau Mawr”, imagining a futuristic city in North Wales, with accompanying narration. I fully intend to go again and watch the whole 20 minutes.

Tyrrau Mawr (Artes Mundi)

And another biennial visual arts event, Cardiff Contemporary is also on, and currently livening up the city centre.

Laura Ford's redecoration of Cardiff Castle's Animal Wall for Cardiff Contemporary

Earlier in the week, I was one of a group of filmmakers who met with the latest intake of students of the University of South Wales’ Masters in Film Production, as part of a promising initiative from B.F.I. Wales – aiming to match our proposals with the students’ final projects and the B.F.I.’s know-how in terms of funding. All the others who were pitching were vastly more experienced than me, but it was, at the very least a valuable learning experience.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Michael Kiwanuka at Cardiff Tramshed

This was my second visit within a few weeks to Cardiff’s newest major city-centre concert venue, The Tramshed, and it was a transcendent experience.

First up was a solo set by youthful, lank-haired troubadour Isaac Gracey, whose folk-tinged, electric and acoustic guitar-led balladeering went down very well. His original material was pleasingly melodic, and delivered in a strong, confident voice – he did mention that his only previous visit to Cardiff was on a choir tour. There were also a couple of Bob Dylan covers, in tribute to the great man’s long overdue recognition by the Nobel Prize committee.

Headliner Michael Kiwanuka’s act kicked off in the same way as his new album, with the lengthy, keyboard-led, Pink Floyd-inflected introduction to “Cold Little Heart”, which cleverly set up the tone of his set, dominated as it was by extended, atmospheric extemporisations.

Michael Kiwanuka

Music industry marketing being what it is, Kiwanuka is tagged as a “soul” singer - and his voice comes across somewhat more powerfully than it does on record - but what his five-piece backing band (including two drummers) delivers is as much influenced by robust Dylan-esque singer-songwriters and classic rock as by Ray Charles. Their exuberance mitigates the melancholic tone of the “Love and Hate” album, and the collective mood is a celebratory one, as exemplified by the jubilant response to “Black Man In A White World” from the overwhelmingly Caucasian capacity crowd.

There were relatively few songs from his brilliant first album, “Home Again”, but “Tell Me A Tale” received the psychedelic wig-out treatment (although the absence of jazz flute was a shame). The encore comprised a deeply moving version of Prince’s “Sometimes It Snows In April”, and a rousing, sing-along rendition of the new album’s title track.

Vintage stuff.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"The Weir" / "Told By The Wind" / Roathbud 2016

Being a part-time/amateur theatre critic certainly throws up some startling contrasts.
Last week, I was privileged to see the Sherman’s production of Conor McPherson’s modern classic “The Weir”, all about the power of story-telling, and full of profane, quicksilver Irish wit. And the very next night, at Chapter, was The Llanarth Group’s “Told By The Wind” featuring dancer Jo Shapland – all about quietude and stillness, apparently within a relationship, influenced by Japanese “Noh” theatre. I have to say I found the former more entertaining and trenchant, but “Told By The Wind” had its moments.

"The Weir" - photo by Nick Allsop

The annual Made In Roath arts festival has taken place this week, livening up the neighbourhood. Since it is run by unpaid enthusiasts, not everything which is advertised actually materialises, but Roathbud, the evening of film screenings by local artists is always reliable, and this year I was proud that my aria film “In Limbo” was part of the programme. It’s always good to see one’s work on a big screen, and in the company of an indulgent audience.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 09, 2016

"Kiss Me Kate", "The Mountaintop", film festivals etc

I got a late call to review “Kiss Me Kate”, from Welsh National Opera at the Wales Millennium Centre, which I was unable to resist – it’s not often that one gets the chance to see one of the classic Broadway musicals performed by one of the great companies. It helped that I already knew many of the songs, although listening to them in the context of the plot (which, frankly, didn’t really hang together), one gained a new appreciation of Cole Porter’s musical inventiveness and lyrical wit.

Other recent review assignments were Alan Harris’ playful examination of guilt, “The Terrible Things I’ve Done” at Chapter; and, at The Other Room, Fio’s wonderfully acted Welsh premiere of “The Mountaintop”, Katori Hall’s multi-award-winning examination of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King.

"The Mountaintop" (photo - Aenne Pallasca)

On Friday, I attended a day-long workshop for emerging filmmakers, organised by BFI Wales, at which Rwandan-born director Kivu Ruhorahoza spoke, outlining his struggles and strategies, and giving insights not only into the kinds of films which inspire him (e.g. “Elephant”, “American Psycho”), but also about the practicalities of surviving as a creative, and of selling your work to producers and festivals. Inspiring, in a subtle way. It was also interesting to note that many of the attendees were reassuringly middle-aged.

There have been a couple of small ego-boosts – my film of Lissa Kiernan’s poem “Census” has been accepted into the Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Munster, Germany – my first successful entry for this prestigious, biennial event; and my adaptation of Carl Sandburg’s “Jazz Fantasia” will be screened at the inaugural New York Jazz Film Festival in a few weeks’ time. Which is nice.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,