Blakeson - Writer

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Other Room - Young Artists Festival 2017 / "The Graduate" / "Wonder Woman"

I’m still struggling to process the transcendent experience which was my participation in the Young Artists Festival at Cardiff’s The Other Room Theatre. The 2017 event was the third – I attended the first as an audience-member. This time I applied as a “young” director (painfully aware both of my lack of experience, and that I would be, by some distance, the oldest person involved), and was delighted to be accepted.

The Festival involves talks and masterclasses from all sorts of theatre professionals (re starting a theatre company, obtaining funding, casting, PR etc), and culminates in the production of five new short plays, to be performed in a block, over three nights. I was lucky enough to be assigned Matthew Bulgo’s “The Language Of War” – a play
about long-distance warfare -  as well as a talented and committed young cast (Tia Benvenuti, Toby Burchall, Grant Cawley and Deborah Newton Smith). The general feedback was that it all went off pretty well (even Matthew seemed not to be overly offended by my treatment of his piece). We also had the opportunity to work on a rehearsed reading of a play by young writer Gareth Ford-Elliot, which was also a valuable exercise.

A wonderful, if tiring week; and if nothing more comes of it, at least I can say that I directed a play (a world premiere, no less) at one of the most important fringe theatres in the U.K.

Catherine McCormack as Mrs Robinson (photo: Manuel Harlan)

This year’s birthday trip was a short walk to Cardiff’s New Theatre, to see director Lucy Bailey’s touring production (from West Yorkshire Playhouse and The Curve, Leicester) of Terry Johnson’s adaptation of “The Graduate” – the classic tale of American middle-class discontent, and a favourite film of mine. Jack Monaghan (an actor previously unknown to me) was hugely impressive as the confused Benjamin Braddock, although inevitably owing something to Dustin Hoffman’s legendarily neurotic portrayal. Catherine McCormack’s Mrs Robinson was somewhat less reminiscent of Anne Bancroft’s original – screechier, and more irritating than sultry, such that one could better imagine Benjamin tiring of her, especially when reacquainted with her daughter, Elaine, played as something of an innocent by Emma Curtis. The whole tone of the piece seemed spikier than Mike Nichols' film, and one might even argue that the ending has been somewhat improved. The video back-projections and dreamlike scene transitions were also a nice touch. An excellent evening.

I rather enjoyed Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman”, despite it not entirely making sense, in common with most comic-book films. The pulchritudinous Gal Gadot is perfect in the leading role, as the initially naïve, super-powered Amazon princess who finds herself, via international spy Chris Pine, embroiled in World War I. The computer-generated pyrotechnics manage not to impede the story-telling – the heroine striding across No Man’s Land is an especially impressive image; but Jenkins’ masterstroke is the casting, with Danny Huston and Elena Anaya as hissable villains, and decent roles for familiar British faces such as Lucy Davis, Ewen Bremner and, most significantly, David Thewlis. There’s been some debate about the film’s feminist credentials, but this is a rare Hollywood movie with a female central protagonist who is both an object of desire and a role-model of moralistic pro-activity, so I see nothing to complain about.

"Wonder Woman" (Warner Bros)

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