Category Archives: Reviews

Pete Lawrie’s new amazing video

I’m not going to deny this is a shamless plug for my brother’s band, but the song is quite simply one of the best around right now. The video is sleek but simple and the lyrics are incredibly uplifting.

Do watch it and let me know what you think.

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George Dillon: The Man Who Was Hamlet

George Dillon writes and stars in a one man-play for 1½ hours, which is quite a feat. It is more admirable that he performs his well-crafted story with skill.

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The Man Who Was Hamlet argues that “the true” William Shakespeare was the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere.

Dillon performs de Vere’s biography through monologue, morphing with precision into the multitude of characters in his life.

But the weakest part of the play is Dillon’s refusal to explain the logistics behind the Shakespeare myth.

He implies de Vere somehow handed his theatrical works to a man he knew called William, with “an egg-shaped head.”

That he does not indicate how that happened causes unsatisfactory confusion rather than mystery as the play finishes.

In spite of the plot, Dillon is an expert and witty actor.

His use of monologue to tell the story is not egotistical but suits the earl’s bullish character. And Dillon held the audience’s attention throughout – bar one teenage texter in the front row.

Excellent lighting from director Denise Evans and Charlotte Glasson’s original music aided the performance.

Upcoming shows

15 Oct, Tunbridge Wells

12 Nov, Newbury

2010

23 Jan, Aylesbury

24 Feb, Liverpool

25 Feb, Bishop’s Stortford

3 to 7 and 10 to 14 March, Bristol

16 March, Greenwich

25 and 26 March, Salford

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Jason Cook: Joy

jason cookJason Cook’s show Joy sounded a bit like a self-help seminar, with the idea that that laughter is the best medicine.

At the start, he told the audience to fuck off if they tended towards cynicism. Although I do, I didn’t let on and went in with an open mind.

From the outset he spoke at breakneck speed, and although his material wasn’t side-splittingly funny, his enthusiasm was infectious and most people left the show in good spirits.

The theme of Joy is finding the positive things in life, even when it seems nothing is going right. He took the audience from the general (ugly newborn babies) to the specific (the death of his father) and stuck to his brief – seeing the lighter side of tragic events.

The high-speed show also worked a treat because it left us very little time for reflection. Inevitably, a few jokes flopped, but he swiftly glided on to the next one before most of the audience noticed. And if we did notice, it was only because he pointed it out, an example of his reflective qualities.

With a MacBook and projector at his side, Cook took on the academic’s role. He embraced modern technology and led his seminar group into chuckles.

Jason Cook performed Joy at the Soho Theatre, Dean Street, London on 17-18 July 2009.

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Amgen:Broken

Gary Owen’s Amgen:Broken, in English and Welsh, is something of an experiment

Gary and Gareth in Amgen:Broken

Steven Meo and Simon Watts play Gary and Gareth in Amgen:Broken

Sherman Cymru, Cardiff
May 1-9
8pm
Tickets £12/£10/£8
3/5

Despite the Welsh-English divide, this play is moving and, as it is set in Bridgend, topical. It is difficult to address a theme of mental illness but Mr Owen succeeds through the use of two opposing characters.

Amgen:Broken has a cast of two. Steven Meo plays English-speaking Gary, who suffers from a mental illness. He stands alongside Welsh-speaking Gareth, played by Simon Watts.

Together on a platform, litter surrounds them, but they are not friends and their relationship is unclear. As Gary narrates his path of recovery, Gareth is there to fill in the gaps, by telling the parts of Gary’s life he is ashamed of and sometimes acting as the other people in Gary’s life.

Although the squalid scenery and Gary’s narrative draw the audience into his unstable mind, the presence of skeptical Gareth keeps them at a safe distance to remain somewhat detached. But that seemed easier for the Welsh speakers in the audience who actually understood him.

Running at two hours, the second half of Amgen:Broken is stronger than the first for the simple fact that the stakes are higher. As Gary recovers, he has to face the real challenges life throws at him rather than the perceived challenges in his mind. The audience was on tenterhooks to see if he would be strong enough to battle with life.

English speakers might well feel excluded by the fact that a lot of the play is in a language they don’t understand, but some of that exclusion is balanced by the fact that Gary is also excluded from the Welsh and complains about it.

English speakers also miss out on most of a storyline about a girl called Lowri, and there a few times when the bilingual audience laughed at something Gareth says. English speakers simply miss out on the joke.

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It could be better

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Duane Hopkins’s Better Things is a film which shows the boring bits of life, when people just sit around and do nothing.

It’s bleak portrayal of life in the Cotswolds beginning with 22-year-old Tess Baker dying after injecting heroin.

Nothing else really happens for the next half hour, except people sitting around taking drugs, looking miserable and bored. But that is probably the point Hopkins is trying to make and it is nevertheless, a very sensual 90-minute-film.

The choice of music also adds to the atmospheric feel of the film and highlights both the differences and similarities between the different generations of characters.

Cinematographer Lol Crawley’s focus on sound and touch helps capture the dirty and base world of drug abuse and at the same time, gives the audience the feeling of watching the film from inside the character’s heads.

Narrator Gail Wilson, played by Rachel McIntyre, is an agoraphobic teen, who is finally forced to face her fear and go outside as the last wish of her dying Nan.

While her narration is sparse, it helps the audience to understand what drives Hopkins’s characters.

Her narration captures the essence of the film, which seems to be that most of the characters have little ambition for their lives, except to fall in love, which they think would solve all their problems.

However, few of them realise that if they don’t love themselves, they cannot love another person.

3/5

Better Things is on at Chapter Arts, in Cardiff until March 5.

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Chuckletrek the Lost Generation

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The Chuckle Brothers are still funny and, rather surprisingly, still going strong as the all-singing, all-dancing duo in their latest stage tour.

After a grand musical opening, which was sang to one of their catchphrases ‘no slacking’, Paul and Barry Chuckle livened up their audience by throwing out sweets, individual crisps and clowning around with water pistols.

Although there were a few technical hitches, the whole cast threw themselves into a plot about Barry and Paul being accidently transported into space aboard the Starship Exercise, where they are given work but caused mayhem.

There were the usual play on words and catchphrases, and with more water pistols, cream pies in faces and general slapstick comedy the children roared for more.

Especially good were a series of magic tricks, which provided a welcome break for those audience members with shorter attention spans and there was some great mime artistry when the brothers try to play football on a planet with no gravity.

For a circus style show, the music was surprisingly hip, again keeping the children enthralled and the acrobatic finale had even the adults sufficiently impressed.

The Chucklebrothers’s Chuckle Trek – The Lost Generation was perfect for parents trying to keep their children entertained over the half-term break and despite a few parts, which seemed under rehearsed, the Chuckles clearly put a lot of thought into creating a varied and dynamic show.

The cherry on top was that they promised to sign everybody’s programme outside. They might be clowns, but they are certainly dedicated.
St Davids Hall, Cardiff

17 Feb
4/ 5 stars

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Bolt

Bolt‘s 3D effects strike a good balance between enhancing the experience and not intruding on the story.

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 You might have to don a pair of 3D specs to watch it, but there is nothing gimmicky about Bolt.

Disney’s latest animation is full of action and adventure and peppered with sentimentality to appeal to both boys and girls.

It is the story of Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) a cute, but fearless dog, who lives in a Truman Show– like film set in Hollywood, where he plays a super-dog with superpowers on his own TV show Bolt.

When he escapes from the set, Bolt realises his super-bark and heat vision powers are fake, but with the help of a mafiosa cat called Mittens (Susie Essman) and a great orator, Rhino the hamster (Mark Walton), he discovers his mortal strengths. It is this path of self-discovery which adds the sentimental touch, but that doesn’t take away anything from making it a light-hearted comedy.

Especially funny are the various head-bobbing pigeons, who appear in each city that Bolt visits, with different character-types to suit each place. From a streetwise New York trio of pigeons to the movie-pitching Hollywood birds. 

It’s also worth arriving on time to catch a short 3D animation of an exhilarating and amusing car race in Tokyo. 

The 3D effects strike a good balance between enhancing the experience but not intruding on the story, but adults especially should be warned that watching a film with a pair of 3D glasses can be more demanding and tiring on the eyes than usual.

PG, running time 103 minutes.

3/5

 

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