There’s something about Mary

Music likes to tell the same story over and over again. This is part of its tradition but even individual composers can be drawn back to the same models in attempts to reclothe and reinterpret musical forms and structures and settings of classic texts. This is especially the case with the Crucifixion narrative. Bach is

Breaking up is hard to do

’Will you be dancing?’ the man in front asks his friend before the lights go down. ‘Most likely,’ she says. Two songs in and it’s looking less and less likely. The world’s best-known Icelander is fronting a 27-piece chamber orchestra in a strings-only performance of songs from her last album (not her most toe-tapping collection).

Bach to basics

The churning, rheumatic mechanism of a harpsichord — notes needling your ears like drops of acid rain — doesn’t necessarily play well to an audience whose sensibilities have been moulded around the picture-perfect delicacies of the classical piano. J.S. Bach’s freakishly popular Goldberg Variations remains best known through the recording made by the oddball Canadian

Arts feature

American beauty | 29 September 2016

‘At last,’ wrote Patrick Heron, a British painter, in 1956, ‘we can see for ourselves what it is to stand in a very large room hung with very large canvases by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline and others.’ Just over 60 years later, we, too, can stand in a


Hilarious, puzzling, boring

No Man’s Land isn’t quite as great as its classic status suggests. At first sight the script is a bit of a head-scrambler because Pinter’s characters are obscure to the point of incoherence. A demented alcoholic, Hirst, is cared for in his Hampstead mansion by two mysterious thugs, or servants, who may be emeritus rent


Losing heart | 29 September 2016

The subtitle for Mozart’s Così fan tutte may be ‘The School For Lovers’, but it’s as a school for directors that the opera is most instructive. From four lovers and two different romantic pairings, the composer spins a parable whose moral is as elusive as its morals. Faced with so much ambiguity (and so little


Close encounters of the Eighties kind

Stranger Things is the most delightful, gripping, charming, nostalgic, compulsive, edge-of-seat entertainment I’ve had in ages. Like a lot of the best TV these days, it’s on Netflix, which I highly recommend so long as you can cope with the technical complexities of getting it to appear on your screen in the first place. Yeah,


White Knight

Free State of Jones is an American Civil War drama ‘inspired’ by the life of Newton Knight, who led an armed rebellion against the Confederacy in Jones County, Mississippi, and one rather wishes that that was all it was about. Directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games), and starring a whiskery, leathery Matthew McConaughey,


One day in November

The weather was ‘treacherous’ on Saturday, 23 November 2013, the day chosen randomly by Gary Younge as the focus for his latest book, Another Day in the Death of America. As he described it, a ‘Nordic outbreak’ of snow, rain and high winds swept across the desert states and up into the northern plains. It