Arts feature

An Uffizi Adoration that upstages even the Botticellis

Tourists who queue for hours outside the Uffizi to see Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’ and ‘Birth of Venus’ are sometimes surprised to find his world-famous paintings upstaged by the work of a non-Italian they’ve never heard of. At three metres tall and five metres wide, Hugo van der Goes’s ‘Adoration of the Shepherds’ – known as the

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The puppetry renaissance

Advance ticket sales for My Neighbour Totoro, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s current production running till mid-January, beat all Barbican box-office records. I went on a rainy weekday evening last month, and the place was heaving with Hayao Miyazaki fans of all ages, lots of them clutching furry Totoros they’d bought in the theatre shop.  It’s

The Listener


The art of the panto dame

There is nothing more panto than a dame. The grandmother of today’s dames is Dan Leno (1860–1904), a champion clog dancer and music-hall performer, not much taller than Ronnie Corbett. He was preceded by others, notably James Rogers, who in 1861, in Aladdin,played a character called Widow Twankey, named after a cheap and revolting tea.

A short history of applause – and booing

A dank Tuesday evening in a West End theatre. The auditorium is barely two thirds full. The play is nothing special – certainly not spectacular. Your neighbour is struggling to stay awake. The reception, however, is tumultuous. The audience is on its feet, squealing, whistling and whooping as though someone has just found the cure


Irresistible: Sky Max’s Christmas Carole reviewed

What’s wrong with sentimentality? The answer, I’d suggest, could either be: a) its almost bullying insistence on us having emotions disproportionate to anything a particular story has earned; or b) nothing at all. And if you want to see how both of these are possible, two of this year’s big Christmas TV offerings provide handy


Mesmerisingly sad: Corsage reviewed

Corsage is a biopic of Empress Elisabeth of Austria who was prized for her beauty and fashion sense and may have been, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say, the Princess Diana of her day. But then disaster strikes: she turns 40. I know, but in 1877 that is old. That



Christmas songs that will reduce your gas bills

It’s unlikely that Irving Berlin was pondering the energy price cap when he composed the seasonal standard ‘I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm’ in 1937. ‘I can’t remember a worse December, just watch those icicles form,’ he wrote, a sentiment many of us can surely relate to right now – but wait! ‘What


What makes a Christmas song Christmassy?

Temperature records for Los Angeles in the summer of 1945 are patchy, but 90 in the shade seems to have been the norm. It was during one such scorcher, presumably, that the songwriters Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn pulled up at a red light on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. Cahn suggested going to