Arts

Fringe rubbish: Company Non Nova’s ‘L’Apres-Midi d’un Foehn’, a highlight of 2013

‘I’m about to lose a lot of money’: our theatre critic prepares for his Edinburgh Fringe debut

Arts feature

Like everyone performing at the Edinburgh Fringe I’m about to make a lot of mistakes. I’m about to lose a lot of money too. But after ten years covering the festival as a reviewer I’m at least able to predict… Read more

After countless hours of secret discussion the successor to Simon Rattle was announced as Krill Petrenko (Photo: Getty)

Why are symphony orchestras expected to survive indefinitely?

Music

Watching the Berlin Philharmonic going into conclave to choose a successor to Simon Rattle — after countless hours of secret discussion they have chosen Kirill Petrenko — reminds one of little less than the election of a pope. In both… Read more

Turner's 'Shakespeare Cliff, Dover' (c.1825)

Whole worlds are conjured up in a few strokes: Watercolour at the Fitzwilliam Museum reviewed

Exhibitions

I learnt to splash about in watercolour at my grandmother’s knee. Or rather, sitting beside her crouched over a pad of thickly ‘toothed’ paper and a Winsor & Newton paintbox on a wind-swept East Anglian seashore. Now, looking back, I… Read more

The Car Man (Photo: Bill Cooper)

You can feel as if you’re in a colony of rabbits: Matthew Bourne’s Car Man reviewed

Dance

Hot, languorous, sizzling… I was thinking what an ideal show Matthew Bourne’s noir comedy is to watch on a summer’s evening in T-shirt and shorts as you sip a cold beer in a plastic cup and feel all toasty while… Read more

An abundance of spectacle: Iestyn Davies as David, with Sophie Bevan as Michal

Startling and sublime - even the candles got a round of applause: Glyndebourne’s Saul reviewed

Opera

Caius Gabriel Cibber’s statues of ‘Melancholy’ and ‘Raving Madness’, their eyes staring blindly into the void, petrified in torment, once posed on top of the gate to Bedlam. In 1739, when Handel’s dramatic oratorio Saul was first performed, you could… Read more

Life in Squares, BBC2

Bohemian conformity can be just as suffocating as any other type: BBC1’s Life in Squares reviewed

Television

On all those comic lists of the world’s shortest books (Great Italian War Heroes, My Hunt for the Real Killers, by O.J. Simpson etc.), the best title I ever came across was Bloomsbury: the Untold Story. Now, though, BBC2’s new… Read more

Shakespeare's Richard II (Photo: Johan Persson)

Turn this play into a film and it’ll win Oscars – Hollywood can’t resist a posh Brit battling disability

Theatre

God, what a title. The Gathered Leaves. It sounds like a tremulous weepie about grief and endurance with a closing scene featuring three anvil-faced spinsters staring through the rectory window at an autumn bonfire. It’s not quite like that. The… Read more

You can’t keep your eyes off Iris

Fashion tips - and replacement hips - from a nonagenarian style icon: Iris reviewed

Cinema

Iris is a documentary portrait of Iris Apfel, the nonagenarian New York fashion icon. Nope, me neither, but that’s irrelevant, as all you truly need know is she is a joy, a wonder, and terrific, as is this film. It’s… Read more

Tallulah Bankhead (Photo: Getty)

If the government have their way, will Radio 4’s dramas be broken up by ads for dentures?

Radio

‘Bait by Cartier,’ she growls as her priceless diamond bracelet is strapped to a piece of rope and dropped overboard in the hope it might lure a fish on to the line. She’s stuck on a boat with a group… Read more

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

cinema1

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