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CultureHouse

CultureHouse Daily

Image: Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Spectator competition: Ed Miliband’s bacon roll blues (plus: new ways with Sonnet 18)

31 January 2015 9:22

The most recent challenge asked for blues songs from well-known politicians contemplating the forthcoming general election. In a small but accomplished entry the Lib Dem leader dominated the stage. John O’Byrne’s Nick Clegg drew inspiration from B.B. King’s ‘Worry, worry’… Continue reading

A group of Afghan mujahideen, 1989 (Photo: Joel Robine/AFP/Getty)

Adam Curtis’s Bitter Lake, review: a Carry On Up the Khyber view of Afghanistan

30 January 2015 15:56

We all need stories ‘to help us make sense of the complexity of reality’, intones the sensible sounding voice of Adam Curtis at the start of his new documentary about… Continue reading

Robert Harris is unimpressed by the BBC's lack of books coverage

Robert Harris: BBC’s books coverage is a ‘disgrace’

28 January 2015 9:41

Lord Hall will be glad that he didn’t attend last night’s Costa Book Awards. Robert Harris, who chaired this year’s judges, took the opportunity to criticise the corporation’s book coverage when announcing… Continue reading

A 16th-century Turkish image of Mohammed welcoming Jacob, from the ‘Zubdet ut Tevarih’ by Lokman (1583) - a separate picture to the one in the V&A collection

Why is the V&A hiding a picture of Mohammed from its website?

27 January 2015 18:06

The V&A has recently decided to remove an historic image of the Prophet Mohammed from its website. The image remains in the collection and will be made available to scholars and researchers by appointment. I am… Continue reading

Turning Japanese: ‘Spirited Away’ by Hayao Miyazaki, who has influenced Pixar’s latest offering, Big Hero 6

How Japan became a pop culture superpower

Arts feature

There is an island nation, just off the main body of a continent. It gained an empire from the force of its military and the finesse of its trading contracts. The empire withered, as they all do, under the gaze… Read more

SWEDEN-MUSIC-COMPANY-SPOTIFY

Spotify: saint or sinner?

Music

We have all read about the current woeful state of the CD industry — how it is 28 per cent down on last year, which was 25 per cent down on the previous year, and so on — but do… Read more

Weight watching: ‘Three Bathers’, c.1875, by Paul Cézanne

Rubens and His Legacy at the Royal Academy reviewed: his imitators fall short of their master miserably

Exhibitions

The main spring offering at the Royal Academy, Rubens and His Legacy: Van Dyck to Cézanne, teaches two useful lessons. One — not much of a surprise — is that Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) was a protean giant of a… Read more

My Night With Reg Photo: Johan Persson

My Night With Reg at the Apollo Theatre reviewed: a great play that will go under without an interval

Theatre

Gay plays crowd the theatrical canon. There are the necessary enigmas of Noël Coward, like The Vortex or Design For Living, which are slyly aimed at an audience of knowing code-breakers. There are the proud, defiant (and rather tedious) pleas… Read more

Plexus at Sadlers Wells Photo: Aglae Bory

London International Mime Festival review: on juggling, dance and Wayne Rooney's hair transplant

Dance

January is something of a palate-cleanser for the year, as the London International Mime Festival flies in plane-loads of companies bearing gnomic names in a kind of dance-world Desperanto that’s equally incomprehensible in every language. Like cars or tourist T-shirt… Read more

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Trash, review: trash by name, trash by nature

Cinema

Trash is the sort of film one desperately wishes to be kind about — heart supremely, if not burstingly, in the right place and all that — but it doesn’t make life easy for itself. Directed by Stephen Daldry, with… Read more

The Marriage of Figaro Photo: Clive Barda

An artistic crime is committed at the Royal Festival Hall

Opera

In one of the more peculiar concerts that I have been to at the Royal Festival Hall, Vladimir Jurowski conducted excerpts from Das Rheingold in the first half of the programme, and Rachmaninov’s little-known opera The Miserly Knight in the… Read more

Professor Peter Piot Photo: Getty

The man who discovered Ebola

Radio

By some quirk of fate, just as news reached the papers that the Scottish nurse who had contracted Ebola while working in Sierra Leone was now recovered, the guest on that Radio 4 staple Desert Island Discs was the scientist… Read more

Dark thoughts: Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Could it be that Wolf Hall is actually the teeniest bit dull?

Television

In January 1958, the British government began working on the significantly titled Operation Hope Not: its plans for what to do when Winston Churchill died. The plans, it turned out, wouldn’t be needed until January 1965 — but the intervening… Read more

‘Pan and Syrinx’, 1617, by Peter Paul Rubens

How will the British public take to Rubens’s fatties?

Arts feature

This week a monumental exhibition, Rubens and His Legacy, is opening at the Royal Academy. It makes the case — surely correct — that the Flemish master was among the most influential figures in European art. There are few painters… Read more

An early 14th-century Persian image of Mohammed

Mohammed — in pictures

Arts feature

Two months ago I was sitting beside the tomb of a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, telling a story about the last week of the Prophet’s life. It was detailed enough to paint an imaginary portrait of him and included… Read more

Leave your brain at the door: David McVicar's Andrea Chenier at the Royal Opera House. All images: Bill Cooper/ROH

Andrea Chénier, Royal Opera House, review: like a Carry On - but without the jokes

Opera

Who on earth could have predicted that a hoary old operatic melodrama set in revolutionary France would find resonance in the present where the pen as a weapon against bigotry and hypocrisy has suddenly achieved iconic status. But hold up,… Read more

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Confessions of an illegal downloader

Music

I’ve never been into shoplifting, though I once had a friend who was. And, no, before you ask, I’m not using that old ‘friend’ device to hide my own identity. She was a girl I met at university. Bookshops were… Read more

Bull Photo: Simon Annand

Young Vic’s Bull, review: a new Mike Bartlett play to bore you into catalepsy

Theatre

A knockout show at the Young Vic. Literally. The stage has been reconfigured as a boxing ring to make Mike Bartlett’s play, Bull, feel like a sporting fixture. This is a common conceit, even a cliché, but here it’s done… Read more

A Most Violent Year2

A Most Violent Year, review: mesmerising performances - and coats

Cinema

A Most Violent Year is a riveting drama even though I can’t tell you what it’s about, or even what it actually is. (What’s new?) Set in New York City in 1981, against the improbable background that is the heating… Read more

David Tennant as D.I Alec Hardy and Olivia Colman as D.S Ellie Miller

Broadchurch, review: ‘unwatchable’

Television

Probably the two greatest advances in western culture in my lifetime have been the Sopranos-style epic serial drama and the advent of TV on demand and/or the DVD box set. I don’t think I’m saying anything weird or contentious —… Read more

Leo Tolstoy

Radio 4’s War and Peace: almost as good as the book

Radio

To have listened to Radio 4’s marathon ten-hour adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace as it was being broadcast on New Year’s Day must have been both wonderful and a bit weird. Like soaking in an ever-replenishing warm bath, indulgent,… Read more

‘Exceptionally good’: Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain in ‘Testament of Youth’

Shirley Williams: Saving my mother from the scriptwriters

Arts feature

Shirley Williams sits at the head of a table in a large conference room in Lib Dem HQ. She will be 85 this year, but still has a finger in many a pie, most of which we’re not to talk… Read more

Ivan Vasiliev (Siegfried) and Alina Cojocaru (Odette) in ENB's Swan Lake

ENB’s Swan Lake: the rights and wrongs of ballet thighs

Dance

There’s been heated disagreement over the past week about what’s right and wrong. Is the rocket-propelled ex-Bolshoi enfant terrible Ivan Vasiliev ‘right’ for Swan Lake? Is English National Ballet right to accept such huge thighs in this of all classics,… Read more

Helio Oiticica's Metaesquema (1958) and Kazimir Malevich Black and White Suprematist Composition (1915)

Geometry in the 20th and 21st centuries was adventurous - and apocalyptic

Exhibitions

Almost a decade ago, David Cameron informed Tony Blair, unkindly but accurately, ‘You were the future once.’ A visitor to the Whitechapel Gallery’s exhibition, Adventures of the Black Square, might mutter the same words in front of the first exhibits.… Read more

Gyula Orendt as Orfeo and Mary Bevan as Euridice Photo: Stephen Cummiskey

Royal Opera’s Orfeo, Roundhouse: shouts its agenda so loudly the music struggles to be heard

Opera

What a week to stage an opera about art’s power to challenge institutional authority, oppression — even death itself. Orfeo’s weapon might be a lyre rather than a pen, but the metaphor is silhouetted clearly against the monochrome backdrop of… Read more

Tree, The Old Vic Illustration: Lizzie Stewart

Old Vic’s Tree: Beckett plus Seinfeld - plus swearing

Theatre

‘Fucking hell. You twat. Fuck off. Fuck. Fuck.’ These dispiriting words are the opening line of Tree, a newish play by the lugubrious comic Daniel Kitson, whose stand-up show once transported me into the heavenly arms of Lethe. His script… Read more

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Wild made me want to puke

Cinema

Wild is yet another film based on a true story, as currently seems to be in vogue for some reason. (See The Imitation Game, Foxcatcher, The Theory of Everything, Testament of Youth etc.) Maybe the film world has run out… Read more

Maisie Williams as Casey Jacobs in Cyberbully

Channel 4’s Cyberbully: an unashamedly old-fashioned drama in being both well made and moral

Television

Channel 4’s Cyberbully (Thursday), written by Ben Chanan and David Lobatto, turned out to be a brilliantly gripping drama, even if the average middle-aged viewer might have found the early scenes as baffling as Finnegans Wake. Teenage Casey Jacobs (Maisie… Read more

Ludwig Van Beethoven Photo: Getty

Was Beethoven influenced by yoga?

Radio

How many digital radios have you bought over the years? How many are still working? Of the four I used to have, only two are now working and those only in certain parts of the house. I wonder, if a… Read more

Chico, Harpo and Groucho Marx (left to right) enjoy a day at the races

What unites Churchill, Dali and T.S. Eliot? They all worshipped the Marx Brothers

Arts feature

‘I had no idea you were so handsome,’ Groucho Marx wrote to T.S. Eliot in 1961 on receiving from him a signed studio portrait. The Missouri-born Eliot was the Marx Brothers’ devoted fan; three years later, in June 1964, Groucho… Read more

2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 1

His lyrics are hopeless, his covers are catastrophic, yet I still love Bryan Ferry

Music

There were two new albums I wanted for Christmas — the Bryan Ferry and the Pink Floyd — and to my delight I got both. Others may prefer the unknown and the experimental as presents, but at this time of… Read more

‘The Spectators’, 1947 and 'Woman with the birdcage' by Robert Colquhoun

The tragic tale of the Two Roberts is a story of two artists cut off in their prime

Exhibitions

In 1933, two new students met on their first day at Glasgow School of Art. From then on they were inseparable. They lived and worked together. They became lovers. They stayed together throughout their lives. They shone at art school,… Read more