Blakeson - Writer

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

Friday, March 31, 2017

BBC Writers Festival 2017 / "Killology"

Last week, I was one of the many hopefuls who attended the first Welsh Writers Festival, at Cardiff’s Chapter Arts Centre. It was the official launch of the BBC Writersroom in Wales, and as well as free food and drink, there were sessions aimed at writers who are interesting in working in areas such as childrens’ TV, radio, and comedy-drama. For me, though, the highlight was the appearance of Cardiff-born Andrew Davies, author of many notable TV adaptations (“Pride and Prejudice”, “War And Peace”, “House Of Cards” etc), who provided several useful tips, quips and snippets. I was fortunate enough to be asked to blog about it on the BBC website, where I provided a fuller summary of the event, but I think it’s fair to say it was an enjoyable day, with optimism in the air.

My latest reviewing assignment for the British Theatre Guide was Gary Owen’s “Killology”, playing at the Sherman Theatre, prior to moving on to the co-producing venue, London’s Royal Court Theatre. Given an ominously bleak staging, it takes as its starting point the idea of violent video games influencing behaviour, and turns into an emotionally resonant mediation on fatherhood. Possibly his best yet.

"Killology" (photo: Mark Douet)

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Monday, March 20, 2017

"World Domination" / "Seanmhair" / "The Nether"

In a strange coincidence, the latest raft of plays I’ve reviewed for the British Theatre Guide all seem to tackle the dark side of sexuality. 

World Domination”, the most recent A Play, A Pie and A Pint production to be co-produced by the Sherman, is about an Aberdeen housewife who sets up a bondage dungeon in her cellar; an enterprise which is disrupted by the arrival of her estranged younger sister. “Seanmhair” at The Other Room, another play which boasts a strong, all female cast, is the tale of an obsessive love which imprisons a woman from childhood onwards. Jennifer Haley’s “The Nether” at Chapter, examines the ramifications of “virtual” paedophilia. This last play in particular, an American piece which has been much produced over the past few years, raises some interesting and disturbing questions; a relatively rare example, in theatre, anyway, of science-fiction used to explore ethical and philosophical issues.

Louise Ludgate in "World Domination" (photo: Leslie Black)

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Thursday, March 16, 2017


Given the somewhat hackneyed premise, I found it hard to believe that Barry Jenkins’ multi-Oscar-winning “Moonlight” could be as special as it has been painted. The story of a young African-American man growing to an uneasy maturity amidst drugs and crime in the ghetto has oft been told, although the fact that this hero is gay was a notable first, and the idea of the narrative unfolding in three distinct chapters, with different actors assuming the central role of Chiron also intrigued.

My doubts were quickly assuaged – “Moonlight” is a beautiful piece of work. It’s largely down to James Laxton’s cinematography which cleverly reflects the moods of the characters – fear, paranoia, druggy befuddlement and, most significantly, isolation. The music also plays a huge role, Nicholas’ Britell’s dreamily minimalistic orchestral score alternating with the more typical rap and vintage r&b tunes. The screenplay – by Jenkins and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney – is a masterpiece of subtlety; and the performances are excellent – Mahershala Ali particularly powerful as a conflicted, paternalistic drug-dealer; not to mention Naomie Harris’s beautiful turn (unbelievably shot in only a few days) as the mother whose love for Chiron is profoundly compromised by her substance addiction.
Heartening, inspirational and unexpectedly optimistic, “Moonlight” is fully deserving of all the acclaim it has received.

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Friday, March 03, 2017

Wales Theatre Awards 2017 / Video Portfolio

I attended the Wales Theatre Awards last weekend - held, for the first time, at the Taliesin Theatre on the campus of Swansea University - and wrote it up for the British Theatre Guide. As ever, it was a lively and well-attended event with a celebratory mood in the auditorium, and a wide range of work highlighted across all the genres. Personally, I was pleased to see Cardiff's The Other Room get four awards, and Hijinx win Best Ensemble for "Meet Fred". And the Special Achievement Award went to legendary Welsh tenor Dennis O'Neill, who seemed suitably surprised and delighted.

"Meet Fred" (Hijinx)

Prior to that, I took a useful Cult Cymru training workshop in the use of Wordpress, which enabled me to create a video portfolio page to showcase my short films. Jolly fun.

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