Director Euros Lyn and writer Russel T Davies with the Sian Phillips award which was presented to Euros by Russel at the ceremony.
Last Sunday, our dragon roared in celebration of the talents of this country, why I hear you ask?
Last Sunday was the 2015 BAFTA Cymru Awards, a buzzing celebration of Wales’ talent, and blooming attraction to international shows and films, with the public watching amongst home grown stars.
Wisdom –easy to receive, hard to listen to – certainly when your brain has a series of buffers and filters to make the challenge of it getting in there that tad bit more exciting, the cogs and emotions of your brain cheering on the wipe out style spectacle before them. Luckily, wisdom is astronomically better fated straight from the horse’s mouth – when the ‘horse’ is another thing entirely. An institution of a show runner, a brilliant, lauded writer, Russel T Davies. The chestnut in question- “just write” Which of course, I am in the process of doing, somewhat strangely with the same, utterly euphoric glee that came over me, and all spectators during the event.
This buzz, according universally to the winners and hosts of the event, is reflected in the unlimited potential of Wales. This potential has, according to, among others, winning director Euros Lyn always been here, but is now being sought ought internationally, with shows like The Bastard Executioner recognising our well of talent.
Each and every interview, however long or short, showed this talent just as easily as the ceremony and awards themselves, with insight into special effects, saying great effects must be ‘wedded to the story’, Director Clare Sturges with her aim to humanise and to stop victim blaming in ‘Sex Work love and Mr Right’, and that tenacity and ‘keenness’ are the first essential steps to arriving in the industry, ready to work for getting to a standard for events like these – something I, as an aspiring writer, would leap at, both hands waiting, despite dyspraxia producing some (light) trauma in the form of PE flashbacks, ready to catch the chance.
No, not even turning the poor saucer of my coffee cup into a small lake could put a damper on the evening. Though slightly soggy. (I shall not, as my friends know full well, ever be up for a comedy award!)
With meeting a childhood icon, industry greats and new friends in the form of the other critics, the buzz is almost certain to remain whenever the memory is looked at, as fondly and excitedly as the night was lived through.
This is as good an incentive as any to have faith in our TV and film, to support upcoming projects and look again at ones past. Among the winners were Euros Lyn, Clare Sturges, Rhod Gilbert, Mali Harries and Gruff Rhys, with Hinterland, Jack to a King and Set Fire to the Stars some of the luckiest projects on the night.
The full list of winners can be found here;
All of the stars were out in force on Sunday the 27th of September at St David’s Hall, Cardiff to attend the annual BAFTA Cymru awards. With the red carpet out and public awaiting the arrival of Wales’ television and movies biggest stars the atmosphere was electric, with plenty of autographs being signed and pictures being taken.
One highlight of the red carpet for me was being able to meet and interview my idol, Russell T Davies. What a really nice guy, so down to earth and a pleasure to chat with. Disappointingly though, he told us that his hit series Cucumber will not be returning for a second series as it was written purely to be for one series only but there seems to be lots more to come from him.
The Young Critics meet Russell T Davies
After the excitement of the red carpet, we made our way to the press interview room, where we were lucky enough to meet and interview some of the award winners and presenters. Their excitement at winning a Welsh BAFTA was evident and it was a great experience to interview many famous faces such as Gruff Rhys, the renowned and well deserved winner Euros Lyn and the Production team for Jamie Baulch – Looking for my Birth Mum to name but a few.
It was evident from many of the winners that they appreciated winning a BAFTA Cymru award. You could see that whether they were in front of the camera or in the production teams that it was an amazing achievement and one that they would cherish. For some, who had started from humble beginnings, were happy to share their stories and by winning an award for their hard work they had achieved one of their ultimate goal by receiving such a prestigious award. Everyone who attended the awards, be they in front or behind the camera, were all inspirational and really did make you feel that you should chase your dreams and one day you may be lucky enough to be collecting a BAFTA yourself.
So, overall a truly magical evening that allowed fans of Welsh TV and Film to come out and join in with the celebrations of what Wales has achieved. We wait in anticipation and look forward to seeing what the coming year will bring us in the world of Welsh film and television.
I recently read a book called Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton. The book was wonderful and compelling, and quickly entrances the reader in its words.
The biggest thing I noted about the book was the fact that it involved LGBT(+) characters, and LGBT(+) struggles. Living in an age where more and more people are becoming more and more tired of the basic “boy meets girl, girl meets boy, they fall in love,” kind of plot, it is always refreshing to find an author who writes LGBT(+) characters, as they do need a lot more representation in anything, really. Media, books, movies, TV shows, and so on. Seeing the LGBT(+) struggles in the book would be wonderfully relatable for LGBT(+) people, who would be thankful to see that they aren’t alone, even if they need to connect with book characters to see so, but that’s fine, too. It’s probably harder to find LGBT(+) books than a , heteronormative one, so I am very glad that this book was written. The two LGBT(+) characters are the main character/s Megan and Jasmine.
The writing is exquisite, and flows very well sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, and chapter to chapter. Since the book is in the point of view of a sixteen year old girl, the writing really shows the character through it, which made it much easier to conform with, in my opinion, since I am also a sixteen year old girl, but I think many other teenagers (or even young adults) would agree. The writing is simple, and good. Relatable, and beautiful.
Throughout the book, there is usually lines of bold text, which is in a different font, and serves the purpose of our main character’s (Megan) darker thoughts. However, I saw the “darker thoughts” a bit deeper. I thought, that perhaps, the resembled something akin to anxiety or depression. People with anxiety or depression usually have thoughts like those I have seen sprinkled throughout the story. So to top it off, not only was there LGBT(+) representation, but also representation for those who may suffer from mentally illness, too. It does not end sourly, Megan gets her happy ending, so I believe this could show the simple message of: Everything gets better. Because it does. It does get better.
The characters are varied, and complex, and mysterious. Our main character, Megan, can’t speak. She is mute. After an incident us readers know very little about as it is hinted at more and more as the story progresses, we start to understand with every passing page why Megan is the way she is. I, especially, became particularly attached to Megan. She is a very lovable character with a past that you wish you could fix for her. You hope that her problems get resolved, and that she is okay. Her life seems to be filled with more downs than ups, and you see how those events take their toll on her and her well-being. She has a secret involving the “incident”, not the best of family situations, and not the greatest school situations, either. You hope beyond hope that she is okay.
Another character, Jasmine, is a mysterious girl who moved to Megan’s small town, and once again, us readers are left in the dark as to why, only being able to latch on to the hints given and speculate beyond what we really see. She is very bubbly and talkative, and easily befriends Megan, who is very much the opposite of her, but they get along very well. Her and Megan’s dynamic is lovely, and surprising. She moved from Cyprus, and loves to tell wonderful stories about the place, and loves to tell Megan just how beautiful it is there.
Another character I really liked was a character named Luke. Luke knows Megan’s secret involving the “incident”, but they are still friends against the rest of the world. He has a dreary family situation, but is still able to smile. However, he is complicated, with emotions that the readers can’t really, well, read. He seems to change suddenly, laugh it off and apologise, and go back to how he was. He has a big secret of his own, and his entire character is wonderfully mystifying, crucial, and massively remarkable.
Another character I really like was a minor character called Callum who we only ever saw as our main characters were waiting for the school bus. We only ever saw him getting bullied for his sexuality, that as far as I have seen was not confirmed. We see Megan (who also got bullied a few times in the story) sometimes giving him small bouts of reassurance, which I really took a shine to. I, while feeling bad for him because he was bullied, really enjoyed the mutual reassurance from both Megan and himself as a dynamic.
Megan’s home life was also an interesting one. Her mother had her when she was about sixteen, and there is little to no mention of the father. However, grandparents were around, which made things all the better, until they passed away. As a new mother, Megan’s mum often got things wrong. She would say the wrong things at the wrong time, or do something wrong at the wrong place, or just generally mess things up. It was difficult to see the relationship be strained by easy mistakes, and I’m sure it was something both parents and teenagers could understand.As a mother with a mute daughter, obviously life is stressful. It shows how stressful communication between a mother and a daughter is, and whether one is mute or not, it envisions the struggle as very real, and very true. Many readers like myself would understand the struggle very personally.
The plot execution was grand. With suspense to match the scene in such a perfect way, as if they were holding hands. The characters thought process is perfect to your own, leading you down the perfect path of the plot.
The plot twist is otherworldly. I was shocked, and couldn’t stop reading until I had finished the book. (At 1am, no less!) It was beautifully executed in a way that turned all the facts I was sure I had known completely on their heads, leaving me to read, and read, and read, until I was sure again. It was wonderfully suspenseful, brilliantly climatic, and amazingly addicting.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is into romance, and mystery, and suspense. I believe it would be a wonderful read to many teenagers and young adults, too. It’s a brilliant book with a brilliant story, fantastic characters and lovely writing.
Unspeakable has been nominated in the Edinburgh International Book Festival, First Book Award, which celebrates the wealth of new writing included in the Edinburgh Book Festival programme. You can vote for your favourite at the link below
Returning once again to the Welsh capital, the 115 strong National Youth Orchestra of Wales took to the stage at St David’s Hall for the final performance of their 2015 tour. Performing an equally exciting and exhausting compilation of early twentieth-century Parisian ballet works, the orchestra was in the capable hands of internationally acclaimed conductor Paul Daniel (CBE) whose ambitious second half of the programme pushed the orchestra to their limits.
Easing in with Paul Dukas’ lesser known La Péri, this was an apt work to sit alongside Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring as the two pieces premièred in the same year. Daniel’s was a subtle interpretation; the introductory rousing brass fanfare moved into a contrasting web of gorgeous full bodied melodies in the strings and ethereal orchestral pianissimos that captured the mysticism of the Persian legend of Alexander the Great that the work is inspired by. This was followed by Florent Schmitt`s La Tragedie de Salome, another atmospheric piece during which the impressionistic oboe and cor anglais passages were particularly enticing. Set in two, the second part was characterised particularly well. Full of suspense and percussive pathetic fallacy, the thunderclaps added colour and maintained the momentum of the storm.
It was a well thought out programme. The first half of the concert passed quickly with beautiful melodies and subtlety that was set up to be utterly shattered in the second half by Stravinsky’s savage The Rite of Spring. When I discovered that the NYOW were braving Stravinsky’s finest work, I felt a pang that I was no longer sitting in the violin section. This is a work that every musician wants to experience on stage.
Prefaced by a harp fanfare written during the NYOW residency by two young composers, the intricate introduction was confidently conducted by co-writer Daniel Soley. Immediately following this, Paul Daniel waited for complete silence before handing over to Llewelyn Edwards to initiate the singing bassoon opening to The Rite of Spring during which the orchestra’s capability was showcased.
For the most part, the relentless rhythmic frenzy was precisely executed and the tumultuous full orchestral sound during the sacrifice was attacked with sheer force and commitment; it is clear that Paul Daniel has worked tirelessly with the responsive orchestra to pull off such a monumentally challenging work. Many would be sceptical about whether a programme this ambitious could be effectively performed by a youth orchestra but, as always, the National Youth Orchestra of Wales stepped up to the challenge. Incorporating The Rite of Spring into the programme gave soloists particularly in the woodwind section, the opportunity to demonstrate their maturity as players.
After a two week intense rehearsal and concert schedule, the professionalism and commitment from these talented young performers will come at the usual price. Today the famous Nash Crash begins for them all!
In 1941 there was Citizen Kane (Orson Welles), in 1955 there was The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton), in 1959 there was The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut), in 1960 there was Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard), in 1969 there was Easy Rider (Dennis Hopper), in 1989 there was Sex, Lies, and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh), and in 1992 there was Reservoir Dogs (Quinten Tarantino), all great directorial feature debuts, but add to that list Roman Polanski’s 1962 maiden effort Knife in the Water, playing at Chapter Arts Centre as part of Martin Scorsese’s “Masterpieces of Polish Cinema” series.
The story of Knife in the Water is simple; a bourgeois sportswriter named Andrej, played by Leon Niemmczyk, and his wife Krystyna, played by Jolanta Umecka (making her onscreen debut, who Polanski discovered one day at a local swimming pool), pick up a hitchhiker known only as the Young Man (we never learn his name), played by Zygmunt Malanowicz, and take him with them on a sailing trip, with the vast majority of the film taking place on the boat. On paper this might seem like a smooth but forgettable little thriller but add in the Polanski touch and it evolves into an erotically charged psychological game of cat and mouse all with the accompaniment of Krzysztof Komeda’s masterful jazz score. Knife in the Water, alongside Chinatown (1974), the greatest neo noir detective film ever made, and Rosemary’s Baby (1968), possibly the greatest human horror ever made, have firmly established Polanski as a master of cinema. But unlike other filmmakers featured in this series, the likes of Andrej Wajda and Krzysztof Kielowski, Polanski’s films, especially Knife in the Water, are almost completely void of any political and social commentary. His films are a lot more interested in cinema, in the reality of a reflection rather than a reflection of reality (to steal Godard’s wonderful term). Knife in the Water does not take place in Poland but in Pol-anski-land.
In his autobiography, Polanski recalled the difficulties he and his crew encountered whilst shooting Knife in the Water, saying; ‘the yacht was quite big enough to accommodate three actors but uncomfortably cramped for the dozen-odd people behind the camera. When shooting aboard, we had to don safety harnesses and hang over the side.’ Yet from this confinement, Polanski manages to liberate the camera, almost creating a new set of cinematic rules in the process. The film is a technical marvel. It reminds me of another Polish film, The Night Train (1959), indecently also starring Leon Niemczyk, where the director Jerzy Kawalerowicz, also managed to create a technically impressive film despite having to shoot the entire picture inside a moving train.
Knife in the Water is a cinema first film, image and sound hold far greater precedent over dialogue which in the film is often meaningless and empty and carries no weight in the telling of the story (in fact the majority of the dialogue is dubbed, with Polanski giving his own voice to the character of the Young Man). Towards the end of the film when the sailing trip has come to an end, there’s a sequence where Andrej and his wife lock up the boat in harbour, they tie up the ropes, put down the sails, padlock the doors, all without one word of dialogue. On the surface it’s an innocent little sequence but look a little closer and you’ll see that Polanski manages to capture their whole marriage through raw image, sound and simple action, no dialogue, like a true master of cinema.
Like Polanski’s two most recent films, Knife in the Water deals with a limited cast, but whereas Venus in Fur (2013), and Carnage (2011) through their limitations become essentially filmed theatre, Knife in the Water is cinema and cinema only. It is ninety minutes of pure intimacy where we too feel like we’re on that boat with them. When it’s all over we realise that we’ve learned nothing concrete about the characters yet we somehow know everything that’s important. The film ends where it began, no one changes, no one grows, yet there’s a sense of a new beginning.
In one scene, the Young Man hangs over the edge of the moving boat and by hovering his feet over the surface of the water makes it look like he is in fact walking on water. Knife in the Water is such a cinematic achievement that whilst watching it, you can’t help but get the sense that Polanski too was walking on water.
Knife in the Water (PG)
Poland/1962/94mins/subtitles/PG. Dir: Roman Polanski. With: Leon Niemczyk, Jolanta Umecka, Zygmunt Malanowicz.
At Chapter Arts Centre from June 28th – 30th
– See more at: http://www.chapter.org/knife-water-pg#sthash.jqBSid1t.dpuf
London Burlsque Festival
As is common and unique about Burlesque shows to other performances is the intimacy. For those who are used to seeing burlesque and enjoy this element, the idea of seeing more and more flesh in such a small venue would only encourage, but for others, it can be daunting. Bringing a Burlesque virgin along with me, I was keen to employ my knowledge as a trained burlesque performing (who is awaiting enough time in her current wonderfully busy life to reprise her alter ego for the public) but aware that this could open a new horizon for him.
Choosing Mondo Galactica, I thought that this would be an easy and approachable theme to introduce my geeky friend to. But who was I kidding? There’s nothing shy, retiring or otherwise not in your face (sometimes quite literally) about any burlesque show.
Performers need little else but their talent in this unique form of artistic expression and dance combined with their glamorous and at times comical costumes and make up. Mondo Galactica was one of many London Burlesque festival shows, this specifically catering to the nerds among us.
With an abundance of metallic, shiny, silver, green and so on, we were transported into many areas of cultural Sci Fi. Some performers linked to identifiable themes such as a fantastic Boylesque group, where the men very differently to common Burlesque/Boylesque took items off but not to be naked, but in the way of transforming into different nods to classical Sci Fi, such as the evolution of man and Planet of the Apes. Their synchronicity and enjoyment of their elaborate scene changes did not take away the lacking in the lack of clothing and skin on show. This example trumping those who profess Burlesque acts as glorified strip routines.
Other’s showed strip teasing Robots or Space cadets, including one with a nod to Star Trek, yet all had a versatility and different way of alluring the audience. In this industry and especially this specific show, it is hard to compare acts with the abundance of ways that it is possible to entertain in a sexy way , and of which was evident in the different dance techniques and interactions with the audience.
Finally, one of the most important and fun part of Burlesque shows is the audience interaction. A short and amateur master class for these untrained willingly volunteered audience members showed us their version of what they had – shaking the booty, bumping and grinding and interaction with the rest of us. Encouraging us to clap and cheer, the continued encouragement to vocally and physically participant in this show came with this easiness to relate to the current people on stage.
While specifically catered with the theme, the London Burlesque Shows or Burlesque shows over all always have something for everyone. Whether participating or not, this welcoming community will turn anyone into a new view of life – my friend, with not so many words quoted in saying ‘You know what? I REALLY loved that!!!’.
Leicester Square Theatre
Controversial and often unlikable Frankie Boyle, known for his taboo subjects and risqué jokes took the main stage at Leicester Square Theatre. Known for sell out shows in larger venues, this small and intimate theatre was an unusual setting for the intense comic.
Beginning with a warm up act, the Canadian comedian was loud and hilarious. He brought on subjects that were important and topical but risked making crude and comical comments on these. His performance was an interesting style; he often walked the stage and used a shouting to pause technique, giving us time to laugh and take in the often valid point he had made. There was not a lot of audience interaction, mostly until the end which seemed a shame in such a small venue, however not all comics take that route and this did not change the atmosphere.
Finally, we listen to Boyle himself. In casual clothing, this gig is known to be a trial and error run of new material. Beginning with some of his already existing material, we were brought into and warmed up within his sense of humour. Not for the faint hearted, jokes petered on subjects that would not be welcomed in usual society, and this sense of taboo made the comedy even funnier. The humour that Boyle exhumes caters for a specific audience, however his popularity is evident by the constant hysterics in the room showed that British Society has a more risqué mind than we are professed to have by the media and stereotypes.
Boyle’s new work features comedy for a show that is soon to air. The privilege of hearing these and the intimacy with his judgement of whether the joke would be good enough or not or even be dumbed down enough was interesting to watch, making each person feel a part of his decision-making process.
Leicester Square theatre is well-known for giving space for comics, new and well-known to perform new material. While tickets sell quickly, it is well worth keeping an eye on these for such an intimate and relaxed evening, something that is unusual in entertainment scenes.
Catch me Daddy is a powerful, arresting film that blurs itself against conventions of the genre.
From producer Jim Mooney, who hosted a brief Q and A at the Chapter screening of the film, director Daniel Wolf, one half of the Wolfe brothers writing team with Matthew Wolfe, the infancy of the creating company – EMU films, both helps and hinders the film.
EMU films having previously only produced shorts lead that to one advantage – the casting of unknown’s for the film seems like an organic decision that would have come more easily from this than otherwise – but the original vision of the film was toned and trimmed, with beauty, but ultimately, according to Mooney, without the messages of the original idea.
The surprisingly unrelenting beauty of the film, amidst its harsh tone, is one of its strengths – the cinematography, a very subdued element in most ‘Brit grit’ films, or used with gritty quality, is here a major focus – giving cold beauty in harsh scenes, enhancing the choice to move the film along in real-time – in a world that is our’s, but from another side of the looking-glass; clinical blues greys and bright amber of fire giving way to a rich night.
This cinematography helps with the other unrelenting element of the film as it progresses – it’s bleakness is by no means soothed by it, but the contrast is a compelling one, when mixed with the brilliant sound design, turning the hazy noises of the every day into an oppressive soundtrack.
The lead character, Lailia, is compelling, but it’s hard to whether she is underwritten – most of the strength of character comes from the stares and expressions of debut actress Sameena Ahmed, the sense that, even in a world that takes away her autonomy, she still holds some ironic power by simply being the centre of this chaos.
Her English boyfriend, Aaron, and the thugs around her are well acted, but again, their character seems to fall down the wayside for the sheer look and scope of the film, which, given the strength of its lead, doesn’t particularly hinder the film.
One thing that could, however, is the lack of translation of motivation to the screen – whilst the ambiguity of the final shot is brilliant, the ambiguity of some characters leaves the plot muddled.
Whilst across the board Sameena has been praised, one element that has not fared so well with audiences is the portrayal of Asian men, many calling them ‘stereotypical thugs’ but given the genre of the film, its raw quality, and the motivations of white thug Barry, within context, you can see why they wouldn’t be completely developed.
But, away from context, this is a tired, problematic stereotype – one must ask themselves why this image is such a pervasive one, and why films with sympathetic Asian men are even harder to find than those of already under-represented women.