Damian Thompson

Make mine a double

If two concert pianists are performing a work written for two grand pianos, there are two ways you can position the instruments. They can sit side by side, an arrangement known as ‘twin beds’. Or they can be slotted together so the performers face each other. That’s called a ‘69’. When Martha Argerich and Stephen

Arts feature

Cabbages and kings

The first pastry cook Chaïm Soutine painted came out like a collapsed soufflé. The sitter for ‘The Pastry Cook’ (c.1919) was Rémy Zocchetto, a 17-year-old apprentice at the Garetta Hotel in Céret in southern France. He is deflated, lopsided, slouch-shouldered, in a chef’s jacket several sizes too big for him. His hat is askew, his


Perishable goods

  Labour of Love is the new play by James Graham, the poet laureate of politics. We’re in a derelict colliery town in the East Midlands where the new MP is a malleable Blairite greaser, David Lyons. He arrives to find the office in crisis. The constituency agent, Jean, has handed in her notice but


Soap opera

Previously on Giulio Cesare… English Touring Opera’s new season caters cannily to the box-set generation by chopping Handel’s Egyptian power-and-politics opera in two, playing each half on consecutive evenings as edge-of-your-seat instalments in a sort of baroque House of Cards. Will Cleopatra outwit her wicked brother? Will she and Cesare ever get together? Will Sesto


When in Rome… | 12 October 2017

I know I keep saying that in Decline of the West terms we’re all currently living in Rome, circa 400 AD. But now, on TV, there is actual proof of this in the form of a truly appalling reality series called Bromans (ITV2, Thursdays). Bromans is like a cross between Love Island and Carry On


Raw materials

‘Art by its very essence is of the new… There is only one healthy diet for artistic creation: permanent revolution.’ Jean Dubuffet wrote those words in 1963, and when Jean-Michel Basquiat burst on to the New York art scene 20 years later — barely out of his teens, untrained and black — he seemed to


Gathering storm

Sally Potter’s The Party, which unfolds in real time during a politician’s soirée to celebrate her promotion, is just 71 minutes long, but it certainly packs a punch. Actually, make that two. Two punches (at least). And there’s a gun, cocaine, a smashed window, throwing up, toxic revelations (of course) and a tray of incinerated


Faulty connection

There’s no doubting her passion for the programme of which she is now chief of staff. Talking to Roger Bolton on Radio 4’s Feedback slot, Sarah Sands told us repeatedly how much she loved Today, how it was ‘a privilege’ to be in charge of such a ‘flagship’ programme, how its length, three hours, was