To look at a picture of Ralph Vaughan Williams is like contemplating an image of a mountain. Not the elegant, keen-eyed Edwardian intellectual whom we sometimes glimpse on CD sleeves or in concert programmes; I’m thinking of the portraits from the last decade of his long life. By the 1950s ‘RVW’ had been the father of British music for so long that he already seemed like part of the landscape, and he looked it too. The craggy jowls, the weathered thatch of grey hair; that questioning gaze — and beneath it all, those great, tumbling scree slopes of rumpled tweed.
I bought the ‘seminal’ Jethro Tull double album Thick as a Brick
from a secondhand shop when I was nearing my 13th birthday. I played it once and then wrote off the £1.85 of my pocket money with buyer’s grave remorse. Sometimes, when the yearning for that much better decade, the 1970s, overwhelms me I take it out of my vinyl collection as a salutary corrective: remember those ten years also gave us Baader-Meinhof, Idi Amin, the IRA and Jethro Tull.
It’s getting silly now. London’s subsidised theatres aren’t just competing to put on the worst play of the year but to create the worst production of all time. The Young Vic’s new effort, Conundrum, is an impenetrable rant which even the Guardian
The Royal Court enters the fray with Alistair McDowall’s The Glow, directed by Vicky Featherstone. Act One is a flatshare sitcom set in the 19th century and features a pompous spiritualist, Mrs Lyall, who forces her chippy son, Mason, to live with a lunatic called Sadie.
It’s 1993 and you’re studying at a top agricultural college with a bright future ahead of you, perhaps in farming or land management, when a chance conversation with a barman all but ruins your life.
The barman tells you that he is an agent working for MI5, spying on an IRA cell in college, one of whose members happens to be your flatmate. You might be sceptical but the agent is very persuasive; and besides, someone from your college has indeed just been arrested for supplying bomb-making equipment to the IRA.
Paintings of houses go back a long way in British art: the earliest landscape in Tate Britain is a late 17th-century view of an estate in Belsize Park by the inventor of the country-house portrait, Jan Siberechts. The genre quickly became déclassé. By the 18th century Thomas Gainsborough was painting peasant cottages; by the 20th, Algernon Newton had turned his attention to middle-class villas on London’s canals.
Not made for the owners of the houses they depicted, these paintings were destined to decorate the walls of strangers: the householders might not even know the pictures had been ‘taken’.
The Souvenir: Part II is Joanna Hogg’s follow-up to The Souvenir (2019) but it’s not your regular sequel. It’s not Sing 2, for instance. It’s not the exploitation of a franchise. And it’s not as if the industry has run out of original ideas for autobiographical films about becoming a film-maker in London in the 1980s. The two were always conceived as a pair telling the one story — and they would have been made back-to-back had Hogg not run out of money.
The prestige podcasting era began in 2014, when the true-crime Serial gripped us with the ‘did-he-dunnit’ mystery of whether Adnan Syed had really murdered his high school girlfriend, Hae Min Lee.
With the exception of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, it remains the decade’s most influential piece of narrative storytelling. Without Serial there is no
The Jinx, no Making a Murderer, no true-crime revival full-stop, and without the success of those shows we wouldn’t have our current culture of viral documentary content — American Murder, Don’t F**k With Cats, The Devil Next Door, Wild Wild Country, My Octopus Teacher; shows you watch slack-jawed with amazement, eyes out on stalks at humanity’s capacity to willingly plunge itself into pure insanity.