Arts feature

An unassuming genius

Pete Hoskin on the Hollywood actor James Stewart, who was born 100 years ago The great director and critic François Truffaut once labelled James Stewart as one of those rare actors who could be ‘moving and amusing within the same scene’. Quite so. On the one hand, Stewart — angular, lanky, and awkward in action

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Curiosity unsatisfied

Mari Lassnig Serpentine Gallery, until 8 June Alison Watt: Phantom National Gallery, until 29 June When I first saw the card for Maria Lassnig’s show I thought it was just another young or middle-aged artist trying it on. Then I discovered that Lassnig was born in 1919, and I wanted to know more. Had she

Brave new world

All empires eventually bite off more than they can chew. Rome and the Barbarians, the latest exhibition under the new management at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, suffers from the same syndrome. It aims to cover the entire first millennium of the Christian era by displaying more than 2,000 artefacts, from 200 collections in 23 countries,

Capricious buyers

It’s tough out there in the crazy world of pop. Two years ago The Feeling were the most played act on British radio. Their debut album, Twelve Stops and Home — almost certainly the only album in history to be named after a late-night Tube journey from Leicester Square to Bounds Green — sold 1.5

Where are we?

Tinderbox Bush The Year of Magical Thinking Lyttelton If you aren’t sure what to make of the present, try shoving it into the future. This trusted device is employed by Lucy Kirkwood (who writes for Channel 4’s admired show Skins), in her first stage play, Tinderbox. We’re in a nightmarish England, seared by Saharan heat,

Perchance to dream

The Taming of the Shrew; The Merchant of Venice Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon While the RSC’s Histories sequence is rightly grabbing critical and popular acclaim in London, what’s left for visitors to Stratford over the summer? To The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice will shortly be added a revised revival of Gregory

Spot the point

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? 12A, Nationwide OK, we’re busy people, so straight to the point on this one, and yet I’m already struggling, because there isn’t any point to get straight to. This is a pointless film. It is sans point, has zilch point, scores nul points in the point department.

Iron Lady

Macbeth Opera North Punch and Judy Young Vic The Minotaur Covent Garden Don Giovanni English Touring Opera, Cambridge In a hectic and heterogeneous operatic week, three out of four of the things I saw were successful or even triumphant, so you couldn’t call it typical. Opera North’s new production of Verdi’s Macbeth largely erased memories

Impressions of England

I’m writing this on the May Day bank holiday, with birds singing outside, probably in terror as the cat Nelson is on the prowl, searching for some luckless fledgling to kill and devour on our doorstep. He will then roll on his back, wave his legs in the air and look cute, expecting to be

Homer’s wisdom

This week marked the start of the 15th year of The Simpsons (Channel 4, often). The other day I went to a talk by Tim Long, the executive producer of the show, who said that it was popular in almost every country in the world, with the exceptions of Germany and Japan. He thought that

Escape into silence

It was a daringly original thing to do. To write a play where the heroine stays silent for most of the time. And the drama’s creator, Anthony Minghella, cleverly conceals her reason for doing so until the very last sentence. I can remember listening to Cigarettes and Chocolate when it was first broadcast back in