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Phoenix rising

Phoenix Dance Theatre is ‘25 years young’, as a filmed documentary shown halfway through last Thursday’s performance reminded us. The notion of youth is a relative one, particularly in the performing-arts world, where a quarter of a century is often regarded as a respectable old age, synonymous with a well-established reputation, a sound history and,

Demons within and without

At its première just over 50 years ago, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was, at least in part, a sane man’s strike against America’s McCarthyite paranoia about communism. Miller’s cover for his protest was, of course, the infamous Salem witch-hunts conducted by the New England Puritans in 1692. In resurrecting the play as its tribute to

Betraying Berg

When Berg’s great tragic masterpiece Wozzeck opened at the Royal Opera in 2002 in Keith Warner’s production, I was more angry and depressed than I have ever been in an opera house. The utter betrayal of everything that Berg, who included in his score extremely detailed specifications as to how it should be staged, indicated,

Through the eyes of a tourist

In the summer of 1811 the 37-year-old Turner packed his sketchbooks, paints and fishing rod and headed west for his first tour of Devon and Cornwall. The purpose of his trip — from Poole in Dorset around Land’s End and back along the Bristol Channel to Watchet in Somerset — was to gather material for

Going Dutch

The Sackler Wing of the Royal Academy is currently in deep-green livery to conjure up a rus in urbe setting for the grandest of the Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century — Jacob van Ruisdael. The first impression is a dark one — storm-tossed seas and forests, cloud-filled skies: the untamed might of nature

Truth and reconciliation

I caught the last Facing The Truth (BBC2, Saturday–Monday) in which Desmond Tutu moderated a meeting between the widow of a Catholic killed in the Ulster troubles and Michael Stone, the Milltown cemetery killer, who was behind her husband’s murder by loyalist gunmen. It was slightly less moving than expected — at least before the

Mismatch of two masters

I hope that I am second to none in my fondness for Dutch art galleries — normally, at least. A candlelight evening in the Franz Hals museum, over 40 years ago, memorably transported me straight to 17th-century Holland — or so I imagined. The unmissable Vermeer exhibition in The Hague in 1996 reinforced this magical