Arts feature

Hitler’s émigrés

Next week Frank Auerbach will be honoured by the British art establishment with a one-man show at Tate Britain. It’s a fitting tribute for an artist who’s widely (and quite rightly) regarded as Britain’s greatest living painter. Yet although Auerbach has spent almost all his life in Britain, what’s striking about his paintings is how

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There was blood on the walls and floor at the birth of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet in 1965. The violence of the subject was matched by the goings-on in the wings, the scrap over the first-night casting, in which the original Juliet, the young Lynn Seymour, found herself relegated down the list having had


Foote fault

Samuel Foote (1720–77) was a star of the 18th-century stage who avoided the censors by extemporising his performances. Today we’d call him a stand-up comedian specialising in improv. He served tea to play-goers and claimed that the show was a free accompaniment to the beverages. Dogged by homosexual scandals, he was hounded out of England


Lady killer

‘Kiss me, Sergei! Kiss me hard! Kiss me until the icons fall and split!’ sings Katerina Ismailova, adulterous antiheroine of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Stalin was not amused by Shostakovich’s bleak black comedy but our culture would be poorer without bored wives like Katerina. Perhaps all that Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina and Laura Jesson needed


Independents’ day

I really hadn’t meant to write a postscript to last week’s column on my dark Supertramp past. But then along came a TV programme which reminded me: I WAS cool once. It happened after Oxford when I became, almost simultaneously, both an acid-house freak and an indie kid. And BBC4’s three-part special — Music For


Now you see it, now you don’t

The artist, according to Walter Sickert, ‘is he who can take a piece of flint and wring out of it drops of attar of roses’. In other words, whatever else it is — and all attempts at definition tend to founder — art consists in making something rare and memorable out of not very much.


Speech impediment | 1 October 2015

Who goes to big-screen Shakespeare? Not theatre-goers much, and with reason. Apart from the odd corker by Kurosawa, arguably Olivier and Orson Welles — and let’s bung in Zeffirelli for those with a sweeter tooth — the Bard is a better scriptwriter when the words are dumped and the plots he nicked from elsewhere are

Incomprehensible genius

London’s Goethe-Institut has a two-month season of films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder (whose 70th anniversary it’s celebrating), but only five movies, each one alternating with a film influenced by him from another country. Considering that Fassbinder created about 60 films, it seems rather a slim effort. Still, half of his output is available on DVD,


Special effects | 1 October 2015

Maybe what we love about radio is the way that most of its programming allows us the luxury of staying content with ourselves, of realising that it’s OK to be no more, or less, than average. There’s no spangle, no sparkle on the wireless; nothing to make us feel we should be aspiring to live