Arts

An adventure playground in 1966. Photo: William Lovelace/Express/Getty Images

The new adventures of the adventure playground

Arts feature

Mud, timber, junk, fires, splinters, rust, daubed paint… Suddenly people are talking about adventure playgrounds again. With the Turner Prize-nominated collective Assemble constructing a new adventure playground in Glasgow, and their exhibition The Brutalist Playground at Riba, we’re being asked… Read more

Disc jockey Anne Nightingale, 1964 (Photo: Getty)

Compiling my greatest hits (and my Twitter trolls')

Music

Compilation schompilation. Having been in music for as long as I have you would think I had a good idea how record companies work. I’ve made two compilations before. But it’s a whole new big thing now in the music… Read more

Christopher Turner as Artemidoro, the romantic lead transformed into a raving hippy in Trofonio’s ‘cave’

Don’t listen to Amadeus - this Salieri opera is better than Mozart

Opera

Magical transformations are a commonplace of opera. We see our heroes turned into animals, trees, statues; witness wild beasts turned suddenly gentle and even the dead brought back to life, with scarcely a raised eyebrow. But opera’s greatest metamorphosis —… Read more

Portrait photograph of Richard Dadd painting Contradiction (c.1857) in Bedlem

The artist who only turned into a major painter once he became a homicidal maniac

Exhibitions

Charles Dickens’s description of Cobham Park, Kent, in The Pickwick Papers makes it seem a perfect English landscape. Among its ‘long vistas of stately oaks and elms’, he wrote, ‘occasionally a startled hare’ ran with ‘the speed of the shadows… Read more

Stephen Merchant in The Mentalists (Photo: Helen Maybanks)

BNP supporters will enjoy this new play from the Bush Theatre

Theatre

Richard Bean, the country’s most bankable playwright, knocks out a new script every four months. Thanks to the success of One Man, Two Guvnors, he’s not short of houses ready to stage his work. And the hunt for treasure in… Read more

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The Legend of Barney Thomson reviewed: comedy is sought but, alas, never properly found

Cinema

The Legend of Barney Thomson is the directorial debut of actor Robert Carlyle, and it’s one of those black comedies about a serial killer in which, as the bodies pile up, plausibility edges closer and closer to the window until… Read more

Pluto (right) and Charon (Photo: Getty)

Why it would be absurd to sell off Radio 2 - even if it could do with a refresh

Radio

The idea that Radio 2 should be sold off by the BBC to a commercial rival is as nonsensical as BBC1 losing Strictly Come Dancing, or Heinz giving up on baked beans. The station, in its former incarnation as the… Read more

Cake Bakers and Trouble Makers: Lucy Worsley’s 100 Years of the WI

Lucy Worsley reveals - yet again - that there’s more to the WI than jam and Jerusalem

Television

Some revelations, it seems, are capable of being endlessly repeated while still remaining revelations. Think of all the books, articles and TV programmes over the years which have ‘revealed’ that the Victorians weren’t, after all, mad sexual repressives who had… Read more

London shouting: The Clash at the ICA, 1976

Why plotting a sound map of London is impossible

Arts feature

The opening bars of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s A London Symphony (1914) are scooped out from the gloopy bedrock of the city. Vaughan Williams was dredging through the same mud, silt, slime and ooze as those scene-setting paragraphs of Our Mutual… Read more

The Dutch National Ballet perform Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella (Photo: Angela Sterling)

Ninja Turtles have no place in Cinderella

Dance

What could induce a grown-up, rational, childless person to go to see the ballet of Cinderella? You’ll expect to cringe at the panto comedy; on the other hand, you do not want to see verismo child-abuse and uglies-baiting. So what’s… Read more

After coming forth in the Tchaikovsky competition, Lucas Debargue is the only competitor anyone is talking about

The real winner in the Tchaikovsky competition is the man who came last

Music

Lucas Debargue, a 24-year-old French pianist, came fourth in the finale of the Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow on 30 June, yet he’s the only competitor anyone is talking about. Why? The main reason is that they’re riveted by his backstory.… Read more

Charmless and boring: James Franco as Christian Longo

True Story does not deserve to have been told

Cinema

True Story is based on the book True Story, which is itself based on a true story, so there is a lot of truth knocking about, I guess you could say, but absolutely none of it is at all interesting.… Read more

‘Stonehenge’, c.1827, by J.M.W. Turner

There’s not a trace of shaving foam in sight in the early Turners on show at Salisbury Museum

Exhibitions

It has often been related how, towards the end of his long life, a critical barb got under J.M.W. Turner’s skin. ‘Soapsuds and whitewash!’ Turner apparently snorted, repeatedly, to himself. However, until now no one has traced the perpetrator of… Read more

Lakmé at Opera Holland Park (Photo: Robert Workman)

Geoff Brown longs for more eye candy and less Harry Houdini at Opera Holland Park’s Lakmé

Opera

These are nervous times at the opera. When should we expect the gratuitous rape scene? Will the director relocate the action to a Croydon laundrette? Who might be booed, and for how long? With Opera Holland Park’s Lakmé, however, almost… Read more

Volpone and his coterie of misfits, L–R from the back: Julian Hoult (Castrone), Ankur Bahl (Androgyno), Henry Goodman (Volpone) and Jonathan Key (Nano)

Trevor Nunn’s Volpone reviewed: Henry Goodman bewitches the audience by doing nothing wittily

Theatre

Easy playwright to get on with, Ben Jonson. His world is simple, his tastes endearing. He likes golden-hearted swindlers and unscrupulous servants who outwit their bungling masters. Volpone, the ‘sly fox’ played by Henry Goodman, is a rich Venice merchant… Read more

Seth McFarlane returns to the Proms to celebrate Frank Sinatra with the John Wilson Orchestra

The Proms is taxpayers’ money well spent: it’s a national asset like fish and chips and the royal baby

Radio

Make no mistake: the Proms, whose 2015 season was launched last night, would not, could not, exist without the BBC, or the licence fee. Just under half the cost of putting on such an ambitious nightly series of concerts throughout… Read more

All aboard Joanna Lumley's Trans-Siberian adventure

Joanna Lumley is ‘thrilled’ by everything, even being spanked by a Mongolian shaman, in her new Trans-Siberian Adventure

Television

For keen students of China, this week’s television provided yet more proof that Deng Xiaoping’s decision to open the country to the West has had consequences that he’s unlikely to have foreseen. He probably couldn’t have predicted, for example, that… Read more

John Waters: ‘I’m a good uncle — I’ll get you an abortion, I’ll get you out of jail, I’ll take you to rehab.’

John Waters interview: ‘We can’t make fun of Bruce Jenner?’

Arts feature

Brace yourself, reader. This is an account of a conversation with the director of the yucky trailer-trash comedy Pink Flamingos. Perhaps you won’t recall the final scene in which the overweight transvestite Divine munches on an actual dog turd. No,… Read more

Ringo

Why do we always beat up on drummers?

Pop

It’s rare that I see a piece about music that makes me want to cheer from the rafters and shake the perpetrator by the hand, but one such appeared in these pages last week on the subject of Ringo Starr,… Read more

Christine Rice (Lucretia) and Duncan Rock (Tarquinius)  in Fiona Shaw's Glyndebourne production of Britten's Rape of Lucretia

When is a rape not a rape? Fiona Shaw's Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne reviewed

Opera

When is a rape not a rape? It’s an unsettling question — far more so than anything offered up by the current headline-grabbing William Tell at the Royal Opera House — and one that lies beneath the meticulous dramatic archaeology… Read more

cdn.indiewire

I honestly had no idea how rubbish The Choir would be

Cinema

If heartwarming, against-the-odds, triumph-over-adversity, wrong-side-of-the-tracks films float your boat and you are in no way demanding then The Choir is your boat floated, pretty much, but otherwise it’s nothing we haven’t seen before, hundreds of times. This is one of… Read more

Detail of a maiolica vase, c.1565–1571, a star piece for both Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill and later for Baron Ferdinand at Waddesdon Manor

Forget Vienna - Britain now has its own chamber of curiosities at the British Museum

Exhibitions

Art is not jewellery. Its value does not reside in the price of the materials from which it is made. After all, the cost of the pigment, oil and cloth that made up a Rembrandt was negligible. It’s what he… Read more

Party pooper: Kurt Egyiawan as Angelo in ‘Measure for Measure’ at the Globe

A handy liberal guide on how to save mankind, courtesy of Soho Theatre

Theatre

Refugee crisis in the Mediterranean! Fear not. Anders Lustgarten and his trusty rescue ship are here to save mankind. Lampedusa consists of two monologues, one Italian, one English, which tackle the problem at home and abroad. We meet Stephano, a… Read more

proms

New works at the Proms that some would rather dernière than première

Music

This year the Proms are to stage 21 world premières and 11 European, UK or London premières. It is good to see the corporation continuing its mission to encourage new music, though some think they overdo it. I heard one… Read more

nicola-sturgeon

Listen: the gaffe from Nicola Sturgeon that everyone missed

Radio

It’s not surprising that politicians have such an on-off relationship with the broadcast media. One slip. One casual comment. One lapse of memory. Even the immaculate, armour-plated Nicola Sturgeon was caught out by Jane Garvey last Wednesday as the Woman’s… Read more

tv-isis

A documentary that ought to rank with the footage of British troops liberating Belsen

Television

So you’ve just popped out of town for the day on an errand. And when you get back, everyone has gone. Your wife, your kids, your nephews and nieces, your friends, your customers: they’ve all been kidnapped and dragged off… Read more

Beat generation: the indispensable Ringo Starr in 1964

Ringo's no joke. He was a genius and the Beatles were lucky to have him

Arts feature

‘He was the most influential Beatle,’ Yoko Ono recently claimed. When Paul and John first spotted him out in Hamburg, in his suit and beard, sitting ‘drinking bourbon and seven’, they were amazed. ‘This was, like, a grown-up musician,’ thought… Read more

William Bracewell as Louis XIV in The King Dances. Photo: Bill Cooper

The Sun King deserves better than this silly cabaret from Birmingham Royal Ballet

Dance

It’s a comfort that the creation of a new ballet inspired by French court entertainment can still happen in the amnesiac ballet country that Britain has become. The idea of making a modern-day meditation on the first ballet — Louis… Read more