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The damaged Brahma statue at the Hindu Erawan shrine (Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/Getty)

Peaceful yet violent: the Thai paradox that still baffles the West

30 August 2015 11:10

The scene of the recent bombing at the Erawan shrine has swiftly been remodelled to make it seem as though nothing happened. Upbeat slogans – ‘Stronger Together’ – and a forensically dubious ‘clean-up’ have gone hand in hand with a media… Continue reading

Image: Getty

Spectator competition: Spammity Spam! Wonderful Spam! (plus: arty limericks)

29 August 2015 9:30

The request for tributes in verse to a once-popular foodstuff that has fallen out of favour generated a large and lively postbag. Bill Greenwell’s entry (Spangles!) brought to mind childhood… Continue reading

Tyler, The Creator: a homophobic menace? Photograph: Joseph Okpako/Redferns via Getty Images

Why is the Home Office giving in to illiberal youth by banning rappers like Tyler, The Creator?

28 August 2015 13:17

In a 2012 interview on Newsnight, foul-mouthed LA rapper Tyler, The Creator told a churlish Stephen Smith that the point of his music was to ‘piss old white people off… Continue reading

Image: Getty

Spectator competition: a thriller in three text messages (plus: coinages inspired by today’s politicians)

24 August 2015 18:30

The latest challenge, to submit a thriller in three text messages, seemed straightforward enough but it turned out to be a tough assignment that stretched veterans and newcomers alike. As… Continue reading

The master builder: Palladio’s villas in the Veneto, Italy — Villa Caldogno

Palladio was the greatest influence on taste ever – but his time is finally up

Arts feature

Somewhat magnificently, I made the notes for this article sitting in the back of a Rolls-Royce travelling between London and Goodwood. It’s a journey that provides ample evidence of how the classical language of architecture, at least in Palladio’s version,… Read more

Ravilious in Essex: ‘Two Women in the Garden’, watercolour, 1932

The only art is Essex

Exhibitions

When I went to visit Edward Bawden he vigorously denied that there were any modern painters in Essex. That may not have been true then — this was in the 1980s — or even now. What is indisputable, however, is… Read more

Daphne at Grimeborn

As with so many Strauss operas, Daphne's one redeeming feature is its end

Opera

Richard Strauss’s Daphne is one of the operas he wrote during the excruciatingly long Indian summer of his composing life, where he seems, in one work after another, to be looking for a subject worthy of his skills, and only… Read more

Prince William of Gloucester

How many royal cliches can you fit into a single Channel 4 documentary?

Television

In 2011, the Daily Mail carried a long story about how the Queen’s cousin Prince William of Gloucester, who died in a plane crash aged 30, had been Prince Charles’s boyhood idol. (Our own Prince William, it claimed, was named… Read more

Swan Lake

Dance from Edinburgh: a flamenco master who could tell classical ballet a thing or two

Dance

Every August when London dims, Edinburgh calls, promising nothing less than ‘the greats of the arts’ at the International Festival. As if this beautiful, haunting city wasn’t enough enticement, I always pack high expectations for the EdFest, which in the… Read more

The face of a film: Charlotte Rampling is hypnotic in ‘45 Years’

A film in which nothing happens — yet everything happens: 45 Years reviewed

Cinema

Andrew Haigh’s 45 Years stars Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay as a long married couple whose relationship is disturbed by a letter relating to his first girlfriend, a German who died in the Swiss alps 50 years earlier. Aside from… Read more

The Christians, Traverse

Edinburgh Fringe highlights: world-class improv, Bible study and an hour with a gentle genius

Theatre

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical offers a brand new song-and-dance spectacular at every performance. It opens with a brilliantly chaotic piece of comedy. A theatre producer on stage telephones Cameron Mackintosh and pitches him a new musical. Mackintosh answers and the… Read more

The BBC's music man: Ben Shennan (Photo: Getty)

What’s the point of BBC Music?

Radio

To Radio 2 to meet Bob Shennan, controller of the BBC’s most popular radio station (the station attracts one third of all listening hours) and now also head of the newish monolith that is BBC Music. Why corral all of… Read more

A scene from Robert Lepage’s autobiographical ‘887’, a madeleine of a show

‘People are interested in what I’m doing again’: Robert Lepage interviewed

Arts feature

There’s a scene in 887, Robert Lepage’s latest show, which opened at the Edinburgh International Festival last week, in which the French-Canadian director stands alone in his kitchen, lit up by the glare of his laptop, watching his own obituary.… Read more

Russian virtuoso pianist Jascha Spivakovsky, 1920 (Photo: Getty)

Jascha Spivakovsky: the great lost pianist we can finally hear

Music

William Kapell was an American concert pianist with the looks of a male model and the fingers of a wizard. He played the concertos of Rachmaninov at dashing speed but with delicate precision. He was snapped up by RCA in… Read more

Walter Sickert 'The Theatre of the Young Artists' (1890)

Between the death of Turner and advent of Bacon, there was no greater British painter

Exhibitions

Walter Sickert was fluid in both his art and his personality: changeable in style and technique, mutable in appearance — now dressing as a French fisherman, now as a dandy, next shaving his head — and even in name (for… Read more

Simon Cartwright in The Man Called Monkhouse

Bob Monkhouse, John Lennon and prostitution: Lloyd Evans’s Edinburgh Fringe picks

Theatre

In the clammy shadows of Cowgate I was leafleted by a chubby beauty wearing all-leather fetish gear. ‘Hi! Want to spend an hour with a prostitute for nothing?’ Yes, please. Her show The Coin-Operated Girl (Liquid Room Annexe, until 30… Read more

Miah Persson in Le Nozze di Figaro (Photo: gordoneszter)

Opera in Edinburgh: even the best Stravinsky can’t beat mediocre Mozart

Opera

Is Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress anything more than an exercise in style? ‘I will lace each aria into a tight corset,’ Stravinsky told Nicolas Nabokov, and for most of three acts that’s pretty much what he does, deftly fitting W.H.… Read more

Gemma Arterton as Gemma Bovery, the male sexual fantasy made flesh, and Fabrice Luchini as Joubert

Gemma Bovery does not work as a film in any way whatsoever

Cinema

Gemma Bovery is a modern-day refashioning of Gustave Flaubert’s literary masterpiece Madame Bovary, and while such refashionings can work well in some instances — Bridget Jones as Pride and Prejudice, for example, or West Side Story as Romeo and Juliet,… Read more

Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) with her lovers Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans) and George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard)

Why does TV assume everyone is so thick they have to have everything explained?

Television

My favourite moment in The Scandalous Lady W (BBC2, Monday) was when the heroine played by Natalie Dormer was shown being taken vigorously from behind by one of her 27 lovers. It wasn’t the sex that did it for me… Read more

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If we all got drunk like Jeffrey Bernard, we could save the NHS a lot of money

Radio

Just back from a few nights in Sweden to find the perfect programme on Radio 3. It was one of those interval shorts that are always such a nightly bonus during the Proms season. That 20-minute space between concert halves… Read more

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Ai Weiwei: the perfect Asian artist for lazy western curators

The Heckler

In September, the Royal Academy of Arts will present a solo exhibition of works by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. This follows his installation of porcelain sunflower seeds in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, a solo show at Blenheim Palace and… Read more

The eyes have it: Andy Warhol’s gift for second sight was preternatural

What I learned from reshooting the dullest film ever made

Arts feature

It’s one thing to make the most boring film in cinema history — at least you can kid yourself at the outset that it might turn out differently. It’s quite another to lovingly recreate the same film half a century… Read more

Carlos Acosta's Cubania (Photo: ROH/ Bill Cooper)

Sylvie Guillem’s better than ever in her final, final Coliseum farewell

Dance

The blackness that sweeps along the stage behind Sylvie Guillem’s disappearing figure in the Russell Maliphant piece on her farewell tour is an astonishing moment. One flinches. An eclipse has happened and the light has just run away with her.… Read more

Animal magic: François Piolino as the Frog in ‘L’enfant et les sortilèges’

Glyndebourne’s Ravel double bill comes close to perfection

Opera

When I saw the first performance of this production of Ravel’s two operas at Glyndebourne three years ago, I thought it was the nearest thing to operatic perfection I had witnessed. But this revival is even finer. Whereas I concluded… Read more

Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow get serious in Trainwreck

Trainwreck wastes Amy Schumer’s talents

Cinema

Trainwreck is a romcom as written and directed by Amy Schumer, the American comedy prodigy whose Comedy Central sketch show is properly hilarious and transgressive, from what I’ve seen. Indeed, if nothing else, I beseech you to watch one particular… Read more

‘Turning Road (Route Tournante)’, c.1905, by Paul Cézanne

I can’t stop thinking about the Courtauld’s Unfinished exhibition

Exhibitions

A while ago, David Hockney mused on a proposal to tax the works of art stored in artists’ studios. ‘You’d only have to say they weren’t finished, and you are the only one who could say if they were,’ he… Read more

Boris : World King (Photo: Richard Davenport)

The stars of this year’s Edinburgh Fringe: Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage

Theatre

Propaganda is said to work best when based upon a grain of truth. Ukip! The Musical assumes that most electors are suspicious of the movement and its leaders. And in Edinburgh that may well be the case. The show portrays… Read more

Michael Mosley prepares for a cardiac scan (Photo: BBC)

Is medical screening bad for your health? Michael Mosley dons a pair of ‘dignity shorts’ to find out

Television

When the link between tobacco and lung cancer was first established in the early 1950s, one obvious question arose: should doctors tell people not to smoke? These days, of course, the answer seems equally obvious — but at the time,… Read more

The Hindenburg disaster at Lakehurst, New Jersey, which marked the end of the era of passenger-carrying airships.   (Photo: Sam Shere/Getty Images)

As the Hindenburg burned, you could hear radio news being born

Radio

It’s really hard to imagine now a world before 24-hour news, continually and constantly accessible in a never-ending stream of on-the-spot, up-to-the-minute reports. What, then, would it be like to have no news summaries on the quarter-hour, no ‘live’ bulletins,… Read more

Richard Long installing the large slate cross, Time and Space (2015), at the Arnolfini

Richard Long interview: ‘I was always an artist, even when I was two years old’

Arts feature

On the green edge of Clifton Downs, high above the city, there is a sculpture that encapsulates the strange magic of Richard Long. ‘Boyhood Line’ is a long line of rough white stones, placed along the route of a faint,… Read more

Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Photo: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns)

Four of the best albums to write books by

Pop

I have been writing a book this summer, in the usual mad tearing hurry. (Much as I admire those who take four or five years to write one, I have to ask, how do you eat? This isn’t by any… Read more

‘Marie-Anne Françoise Liotard with a Doll’, c.1744, by Jean-Etienne Liotard

The forgotten Swiss portraitist and his extraordinary pastels: Jean-Etienne Liotard at the Scottish National Gallery reviewed

Exhibitions

This is not the biggest exhibition at Edinburgh and it will not be the best attended but it may be the most daring. While the main gallery at the Royal Scottish Academy, commandeered as usual for Festival season by the… Read more