CultureHouse

CultureHouse Daily

Image: Getty

Spectator competition: Is that ‘Well Spanked’ or ‘Disappointing Sandwich’?

29 June 2015 17:45

A spoof Farrow & Ball paint-colour chart doing the rounds on social media was the inspiration for the latest challenge. Competitors were invited to see if they could outdo the rather unappealing likes of ‘economy mince’, ‘provoked wasp’, ‘magnum of… Continue reading

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 17.10.26

In the footsteps of Marco Polo: the journey that changed William Dalrymple’s life

24 June 2015 17:23

This is the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of William Dalrymple’s first book, In Xanadu: A Quest At the end of the windy, rainy April of 1986, towards the end of my… Continue reading

Shake it out and rake it in (Photo: Getty)

The world belongs to Taylor Swift now. There will be no free-trial period

23 June 2015 17:46

All hail Taylor Swift. How she must give baby boomers the fear. Not just baby boomers. Also those who came next, the Generation Xers, who seemed to define themselves culturally… Continue reading

The new chief conductor of the Berlin Phil, Kirill Petrenko. Photo: Getty

The new head of the Berlin Philharmonic was no-one’s first choice

23 June 2015 12:56

Let’s face facts. Kirill Petrenko was no-one’s first choice as music director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. His name came into the reckoning only after 124 orchestra members split fatally… Continue reading

Detroit: a city brought back from the dead

The moral case for gentrification

Arts feature

In its pomp, they used to say that what was good for General Motors, Detroit’s Medici, was good for America. Detroit was imperial. Like Rome, it stood for the whole. Michigan Avenue was like something from a Roman urbs: a… Read more

One of Wilford's most treasured clients Herbert von Karajan. Photo: Getty Images

The most powerful man in classical music

Music

When Margaret Thatcher imagined perfect power, she thought of the orchestral conductor. ‘She envied me,’ said Herbert von Karajan, ‘that people always did what I requested.’ Power, however, is a mirage that fades as you get close. What Mrs Thatcher… Read more

Imogen Poots and Owen Wilson

She's Funny That Way isn't funny at all

Cinema

The writer and director Peter Bogdanovich has made three of my favourite films of all time (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon, What’s Up, Doc?) but I don’t think I’ll be adding his latest, She’s Funny That Way, to the… Read more

Rachel Nicholls and Peter Wedd in Tristan und Isolde

The finest Tristan since Siegfried Jerusalem

Opera

Which of Wagner’s mature dramas is the most challenging, for performers and spectators? The one you’re seeing at the moment, seems to be the answer for me. The better I know them, the more apprehensive I get about whether I… Read more

‘Sculpture with Colour (Deep Blue and Red) [6]’, 1943, by Barbara Hepworth

Was Barbara Hepworth a giant of modern sculpture - or a dreary relic of post-war Britain?

Exhibitions

In the last two decades of her life, Barbara Hepworth was a big figure in the world of art. A 21-foot bronze of hers stands outside the UN headquarters in New York, emblematic of her friendship with secretary-general Dag Hammarskjöld… Read more

An Audience with Jimmy Savile, Park Theatre (Photo: Helen Maybanks)

We’ve forgotten just how attractive Jimmy Savile once was

Theatre

Ho hum. Bit icky. Not bad. Hardly dazzling. The lukewarm response to An Audience With Jimmy Savile has astonished me. This is the best docudrama I’ve seen on stage. From the early 1970s, Britain swooned before Savile. Marketing pollsters found… Read more

TFI Friday presenter Chris Evans (Photo: Getty)

James Delingpole remembers why he never watched TFI Friday - because it's dreadful

Television

‘Cringe!’ said Boy, after I’d exposed him to a few seconds of last week’s special nostalgia edition of TFI Friday. And he did have a point. From its once almost-daring name to its zany title graphics to its whatever-happened-to guest… Read more

ThinkstockPhotos-523996999

Why sound beats image when it comes to memory

Radio

It’s often not visual images that stimulate memory but a smell, a taste, the sound of pebbles crashing on to the beach, ice cream being scooped into a cone, seagulls circling overhead. Where was I when I first heard that… Read more

Glastonbury Festival, where the absence of authority results in order, not anarchy

Steve Hilton's model for policy reform: Glastonbury (yes, really)

Arts feature

There is a phrase that has been fashionable for years in wonkland — places like the upper echelons of the civil service and high-end think tanks. The phrase is ‘evidence-based policy-making’. There, I bet that’s got you going. When I… Read more

finnissy_english_16

Is this the greatest piano work of the 21st century?

Music

The award of a knighthood to the composer James MacMillan will have ruined last weekend for lots of unsavoury people: the Guardian arts desk, which decided he’d lost his mojo as soon as he turned his back on the left;… Read more

Carsten Höller's 'Flying Mushrooms' (2015). Photo: Linda Nylind

The artist who turned the Hayward Gallery into Disney World

Exhibitions

Gianlorenzo Bernini stressed the difficulty of making a sculpture of a person out of a white material such as marble. Imagine, he said, that someone we knew well whitened his hair, his beard, his lips and his eyebrows, and, were… Read more

The Red Lion, Dorfman Theatre

Patrick Marber’s Red Lion at the Dorfman reviewed: ‘the woman next to me yawned a lot’

Theatre

For nine years Patrick Marber has grappled with writer’s block (which by some miracle doesn’t affect his screenplay work), but the pipes are now ungummed and wallop! his new bolus of creativity splatters across the Dorfman stage. It’s a wordy… Read more

Sir Ian McKellen as Mr Holmes

I dozed through it quite significantly: Mr Holmes reviewed

Cinema

Mr Holmes stars Ian McKellen as the great detective in his old age and while it could have proved a touching character study — who are you, not just when your mind starts to fail, but when the mind for… Read more

Flight at Opera Holland Park (Photo: Robert Workman)

Hans Werner Henze: the Ed Miliband of opera

Opera

We opera critics love gazing into crystal balls. We’re particularly good at discovering Ed Milibands and backing them to the hilt. Postwar opera is full of them. Take Hans Werner Henze. He was considered the future his entire life. Yet… Read more

London Road is a must see

The choreographer that does things to tango couples that Relate would not recommend

Dance

I often regret that I’m writing in the past tense here, but never more than about milonga. It is such a smash show in every way that by rights it would be having a six-month run where everyone can see… Read more

Channel 4’s new sci-fi series Humans

Heroically unoriginal: Channel 4’s Humans reviewed

Television

You’d think scientists might have realised by now that creating a race of super-robots is about as wise as opening a dinosaur park. Yet in Channel 4’s new sci-fi series Humans (Sunday), the manufacturers of the extremely lifelike cyber-servants known… Read more

West Façade Illumination, 2015, by James Turrell

James Turrell interview: ‘I sell blue sky and coloured air’

Arts feature

James Turrell gave me extremely precise instructions. After dinner, I was to walk out through the grounds at Houghton Hall to the skyspace he has built. Here I should observe the gradual darkening above as brightness fell from the Norfolk… Read more

Marcus Mumford and Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons (Photo: Getty)

A reason to (almost) like Mumford & Sons

Music

Like a lot of essentially cautious people, I like my music to take some risks, play with fire and damn the consequences. In truth, of course, most musicians are every bit as conservative as the rest of us: they do… Read more

The Queen of Spades (Photo: Donald Cooper)

ENO’s Queen of Spades: I wanted to grab David Alden’s production by the neck and shake out its silly clutter

Opera

The opera director David Alden has never been one to tread the straight and narrow. Something kinky would emerge, I’m sure, even if he directed the Queen’s televised Christmas message. So matching him up at English National Opera with the… Read more

Quite the hankie-drencher: Tanya Moodie as Constance in ‘King John’

There's a reason why the past four centuries have ignored Shakespeare's King John

Theatre

King John arrives at the Globe bent double under the weight of garlands from the London critics. Their jaunt up to Northampton for the première seems to have cast an opiate glaze over their faculties. Plays that are rarely revived… Read more

Adi Rukun tests the eyes of one of the men who killed his brother

Stunning, riveting, horrifying: Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence reviewed

Cinema

With Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing you’d be minded to think that’s it, that’s the Indonesian genocide (1965–66) done, but now he’s returned with a second film that is equally stunning, equally riveting — in its horrifying way —… Read more

Napoleon with Andrew Roberts

BBC2’s Napoleon reviewed: does Andrew Roberts’s pet Frog need rehabilitating?

Television

I adore Andrew Roberts. We go back a long way. Once, on a boating expedition gone wrong in the south of France, we had a bonding moment almost Brokeback Mountain-esque in its bromantic intensity. Roberts had hired an expensive speedboat… Read more

The Bottom Line's Evan Davis (Photo: Getty)

Why I love The Bottom Line

Radio

Evan Davis’s series on business life, The Bottom Line (made in conjunction with the Open University), has become one of those Radio 4 staples, something that’s just there in the schedule and all too easily taken for granted. Productivity, contracts… Read more

heckler

The Heckler: my decades-long campaign against Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

The Heckler

For anyone who has been interested in classical vocal music since the middle of the last century, whether choral, operatic or solo, there has been one inescapable name and voice: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. His repertoire was gigantic, surely larger than that… Read more

Jimmy Saville Rolls-Royce

Are we ready for a play about Jimmy Savile?

Arts feature

Have you heard the one about girlfriend-killer Oscar Pistorius not having a leg to stand on? Or what about the Germanwings knock-knock joke? If you find gags like these funny, you could come and stand with me on the terraces… Read more

(Photo: Getty)

I fear for this year’s Proms

Music

As Sepp Blatter has so affectingly remarked, the organisation he formerly headed needs evolution, not revolution. There is a consensus that this is also what David Pickard will bring to the Proms, when he takes over after this season. Of… Read more

Sylvie Guillem, in savage-child tunic and a Mowgli wig, says farewell to her fans

Is that Sylvie Guillem? Or R2-D2? Guillem's farewell dance at Sadler’s Wells reviewed

Dance

There’s been a clutch of middle-aged danseuses taking leave of life in one way or another recently. We’ve seen the abject (Mariinsky star Diana Vishneva’s solo show at the Coliseum) and the magnetic (Alessandra Ferri mournfully channelling Virginia Woolf at… Read more

RA Summer Exhibition 2015. Photo: John Bodkin / Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition reviewed: a jumble sale with pizzazz

Exhibitions

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition has very little in common with the Venice Biennale. However they do share one characteristic. Each always contains so many diverse and potentially incompatible elements that orchestrating a smoothly blended result is dauntingly difficult. But,… Read more