Arts feature

Big in Japan

An early morning in late November in the peaceful glades that surround an ancient temple complex. A Shinto priest in sombre silks slips through a sliding door; a maple leaf catches the breeze. Suddenly, the silence is broken by the crunching thwack as two 400lb slabs of prime meat collide. It is the 15th and


Thinking outside the box | 10 January 2019

Sweat, set in the Pennsylvanian rust belt, looks at a blue-collar community threatened by a factory closure. The script uses the flashback device. Scene One informs us that two lads were found guilty of doing a Bad Thing eight years ago. What Bad Thing? The author won’t tell us because the play needs suspense but


Beat it

Here’s a tricky quiz question for you. What word completes this sentence from a BBC4 documentary on Friday: ‘The world as we know it was created by the…’? The answer, bizarrely enough, is ‘backbeat’ — because the documentary in question was On Drums… Stewart Copeland!, in which the former Police percussionist took a fiercely drum-centric


Relative values | 10 January 2019

When he knew that he was dying, Thomas Gainsborough selected an unfinished painting from some years before and set it on the easel in his studio. It was a portrait of his nephew, pupil and assistant Gainsborough Dupont, begun more than a decade earlier and set aside. This little work, which he seems to have


Love match

You mess with Laurel and Hardy at your peril. Their fan base is essentially the entire world. Samuel Beckett adored them: many think they inspired Waiting For Godot. Eric Morecambe’s reluctance to appear in bed with Ernie Wise melted when he was reminded that Stan and Ollie had used the same conceit. In Poland the


Points of view

I suspect that whether or not you admire Neil MacGregor’s latest series for Radio 4, As Others See Us (produced by Paul Kobrak and Tom Alban), will depend on how you feel about Brexit. To my ears, it was shamelessly in favour of a Britain that stays in Europe and remains committed to its global