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Dylan Thomas in 1946. Photograph: Francis Reiss/Getty Images

Dylan Thomas: speeches for Hitler, balderdash for Walton and the true meaning of Under Milk Wood

24 October 2014 11:11

My father came across Dylan Thomas in a Swansea pub in 1947. ‘Chap over there,’ said one of the regulars ‘is a poet.’ ‘What’s his name?’ asked my father. ‘No idea.’ That Thomas’s celebrity was rather patchy, even in his… Continue reading

First editions of Conan Doyle's novel A Study in Scarlet, which are on show at the Museum of London. Photograph: Museum of London/EPA

This new Sherlock Holmes exhibition will have Cumberbitches salivating

23 October 2014 17:57

Have you ever experienced the joys of Jawohl, meine Herr’n? If not I strongly advise an appointment with YouTube. The song features in the 1954 film Der Mann, der Sherlock… Continue reading

Frieze London, Regent's Park, October 2013

Frieze Week Diary: Will my marbles be the first to go, or my liver?

22 October 2014 18:47

This diary first appeared on Apollo Magazine’s website. Monday, 13 October There was something weird in the London air, and it wasn’t the rain. E-mails from PRs were hitting my inbox like the… Continue reading

Republic of Chechnya, 2013. A group of pro-Kadyrov activists in the main square of the city to celebrate the 10th anniversary of 'Constitution Day'. All images: Davide Monteleone

The nation that Putin crushed – and the world forgot

22 October 2014 17:48

Putin, at least 12-foot-high, glowers from the wall of a gym where men are training to wrestle. He is at the centre of an unnerving triptych. On his left is… Continue reading

Left: The Apostle Simon, 1661. Right: Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan, 1658–60

Rembrandt at the National Gallery: the greatest show on earth

Arts feature

At the opening of Rembrandt: The Late Works at the National Gallery (until 18 January), I met a painter friend of mine in the final room. This was, he said, one of the most magnificent exhibitions he had seen in… Read more

Plisetskaya in ‘Romeo and Juliet’, 1964. She was one of the supreme trophies in the Soviet display case, the most garlanded, the most suspected

Maya Plisetskaya and Rodion Shchedrin: ‘The KGB put a microphone in our marriage bed'

Arts feature

‘People in the West don’t understand nothing. Even the new Russian generation don’t understand anything at all. You don’t know, and it’s better you don’t.’ Maya Plisetskaya scrutinises me with her beautiful, kohl-rimmed, 88-year-old eyes, a gaze made wary in… Read more

Jane Horrocks as the slovenly matriarch still fond of her bullying husband George (‘East is East’ playwright Ayub Khan Din, left)

Is London's West End Jewish enough for David Baddiel’s musical The Infidel?

Theatre

David Baddiel has turned his movie, The Infidel, into a musical. The set-up is so contrived and clumsy that it has a sweetness all its own. A golden-hearted London cabbie, named Mahmoud, discovers that he was adopted at birth and… Read more

Frieze Art Fair - VIP Preview

Frieze Art Fair: where great refinement meets harrowing vulgarity

Arts feature

If you wanted to find a middle-aged man in a bright orange suit, matching tie and sneakers, Frieze is a good place to start looking. I found one. Or maybe he was a limited edition existing in several reproductions. Certainly,… Read more

Brad Pitt with the crew of the Sherman tank, Fury

Fury: the men blow stuff up, then Brad Pitt takes his top off

Cinema

Fury is a second world war drama that plays with us viscerally and unsparingly — I think I saw a head being blown off; I think I saw a sliced-off face, flopping about — but is still just another second… Read more

Miles (Thomas Delgado-Little) and Flora (Louise Moseley) in Glyndebourne's creepy Turn of the Screw. © Tristram Kenton

Glyndebourne’s Turn of the Screw: horrors of the most innocent and creepy kind

Opera

We all know that ‘They fuck you up your mum and dad’, but nowhere is this more reliably (and violently) true than in the opera house. If you have the misfortune to be born into an operatic family you can… Read more

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai

What it's like being a scarily talented teenager

Radio

It was when she said how she loved ‘watching the computer do exactly what you wanted it to do’ that I realised how exceptional she must be. To be so young, just 19, and so at home with technology that… Read more

Carrie's back: Clare Danes in Homeland

Hooray for Homeland - Carrie’s back blasting America’s enemies to pieces with drones

Television

One of the more welcome and surprising things about television at the moment is that Homeland (Channel 4, Sunday) is good again. As I’m not the only person to have pointed out, the first series was great. After that, though,… Read more

Timothy Spall as the eponymous painter in Mike Leigh’s new film ‘Mr Turner’

Mike Leigh interview: 'A guy in the Guardian wants to sue me for defamation of Ruskin!'

Arts feature

Mike Leigh is in a cheerfully bullish mood when I meet him at the Soho Hotel. ‘Have you read today’s Guardian?’ Dammit — I should have seen that coming. ‘A guy in G2 would like to sue me for defamation… Read more

'Supermarkets' (1976), by Sigmar Polke. Picture: The Estate of Sigmar Polke

Tate Modern’s latest show feels like it’s from another planet

Exhibitions

‘Some day we shall no longer need pictures: we shall just be happy.’ — Sigmar Polke and Gerhard Richter, 1966 Who says Germans have no sense of humour? OK, so their writers tend to be a pretty gloomy bunch —… Read more

Composer Alexander Glazunov Photo: Getty

The drunk conductor who ruined Rachmaninov’s career

Music

Would musical history have turned out differently if Alexander Glazunov hadn’t been smashed out of his wits when he conducted the first performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 1 in D minor? The best of Glazunov’s own neatly carpentered symphonies hover… Read more

Hye-Youn Lee as Violetta in ‘La traviata’

Opera North's Coronation of Poppea: a premium-rate sex-line of an opera

Opera

Virtue, hide thyself! The Coronation of Poppea opens with a warning and closes with a love duet for a concubine and a psychopath, their union celebrated in sinuous melismas over a blameless passacaglia. First performed in 1643, Monteverdi’s final opera… Read more

Turning feral: Lord of the Flies

Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies: when boys turn feral

Dance

GCSE Eng Lit pupils are doing well from dance this season with two set books told in the medium of dance, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, and even Dylan Thomas gets a look in.… Read more

Harriet Walter as King Henry

Donmar's Henry IV: Phyllida Lloyd has nothing but contempt for her audience

Theatre

The age of ‘ladies first’ is back. Phyllida Lloyd reserves all the roles for the weaker sex, as I imagine she thinks of them, in this hybrid play assembled from Henry IV (i) and (ii). It’s a twin-layered production that… Read more

Tissues at the ready: James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan in The Best of Me

The Best of Me is more of a sleepie than a weepie - especially when our old friend No Sexual Chemistry makes an appearance

Cinema

Take tissues to The Best of Me, I’d read, as it’s such a weepie, so I took tissues, being a weeper at weepies — I still dab my eyes whenever I even think about War Horse — but it was… Read more

Mackenzie Crook's Detectorists

Fellow saddoes rejoice: BBC4 has made a comedy-drama about metal detecting

Television

Detectorists (BBC4) is a sad git’s niche comedy that would never have been commissioned if it hadn’t been written and directed by Mackenzie Crook (who sort of counts as a Hollywood star, now, because after making his name in The… Read more

The man in charge: Alan Davey

Can Radio 3 escape the digital squeeze?

Radio

The new controller of Radio 3 has at last been appointed. Alan Davey (not to be confused with the former bassist from Hawkwind) comes to the BBC from the Arts Council and a career in the Civil Service. This will… Read more

Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan and Sam J. Jones as Flash in ‘Flash Gordon’, part of the BFI ‘Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder’ season

Without sci-fi, there would be no cinema

Arts feature

Do you know what’s hateful? The snobbery that film fans have to contend with. There’s the ‘it’s only a movie’ snobbery, by which cinema is suitable only for wastrels and dogs. And there’s the ‘if it ain’t Danish and silent,… Read more

‘Winter Landscape (Winterlandschaft)’, 1970, by Anselm Kiefer

All my doubts about Anselm Kiefer are blown away by his Royal Academy show

Exhibitions

In the Royal Academy’s courtyard are two large glass cases or vitrines containing model submarines. In one the sea has receded, dried up, and the tin fish are stranded on the cracked mud of the ocean floor. In the other,… Read more

Photo: ENO/Robert Workman

ENO’s The Girl of the Golden West is irresistibly seductive

Opera

Puccini’s La fanciulla del West is, one suspects, one of those works that modern audiences struggle to keep a straight face through. The hero, for a start, decides to call himself Dick Johnson. The piece’s Wild West trappings, long since… Read more

Party-Logos

Ukip's logo is quite successful – in communicating a spirit of gung-ho crapness

Design

Now that the conference season is over, we can compare not just the party policies, but their logos too. Last week’s Tory conference taught us the patriotic adaptation of their tree — now draped in the Union Flag — doesn’t… Read more

Stage rage: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra

Were the cast of the Old Vic’s Electra clothed by Oxfam?

Theatre

First, a bit of background. Conquering Agamemnon slew his daughter, Iphigenia, in return for a fair wind to Troy. This rather miffed his wife, Clytemnestra, who bashed his head in with an axe when he came swaggering home. Her retribution… Read more

Poor, poor Effie: Dakota Fanning

Effie Gray can effie off

Cinema

Effie Gray, which has been written by Emma Thompson and recounts the doomed marriage of Victorian art critic John Ruskin to his teenage bride (he refused to consummate it), has a blissful cast. It stars Dakota Fanning, Ms Thompson herself,… Read more

Steve Howe of Yes Photo: Redferns via Getty

Why Yes are still the funniest rock band in the world (although Radiohead are catching up)

Music

My favourite comment about the Scottish referendum came from the eminent comedian and novelist David Baddiel. ‘What if Yes wins, but due to a typographical error, the prog-rock band gets in and Jon Anderson becomes First Minister?’ You probably had… Read more

Brian Cox's Human Universe

We're great and baboons are losers: this week's lesson from Brian Cox

Television

Anybody feeling a bit depressed about the shortcomings of humanity could do worse than watch Brian Cox’s new series Human Universe (BBC2, Tuesday) — which, judging from the first episode, is all about how great we are. Early on, Cox… Read more

Mary Beard vs Jeremy Paxman Photo: Getty

Mary Beard vs Jeremy Paxman

Radio

‘Did you find it a good read?’ asked Harrriett Gilbert. An incredibly long drawn-out sigh from Mr Paxman. ‘I think it’s really unsatisfactory,’ he at last replied. ‘But Jeremy,’ retorted Professor Beard, ‘I don’t think you’ve read it carefully enough.’… Read more

Space odyssey: Ed White walking in space over New Mexico, Gemini 4, June 1965 Image: James McDivitt

The images from the Apollo missions will reduce you to tears

Arts feature

When people ask why I’m obsessed with the Apollo moon missions, I always want to reply using the same phrase: ‘Because they were out of this world.’ I never do, because it happens to sound like a very bad joke.… Read more

Composer Franz Schubert at work Photo: Getty

My Schubert marathon

Arts feature

On 10 October, the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford will host the first concert in ‘the biggest ever celebration of the life and work of Franz Schubert’. Over three weeks, all 650 songs (or thereabouts) will be performed, most of them… Read more