Arts feature

The odd couple | 16 March 2017

Only once did Michelangelo sign a sculpture. It was the ‘Pietà’ of 1497–1500, and he did so using an incomplete sentence in the past imperfect: ‘Michelangelo Buonarroti the Florentine was making…’. The implication was that actually completing a perfect masterpiece was an unattainable goal, so instead he just had to leave off (a great many

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Mirror, mirror | 16 March 2017

The exit signs were switched off and the stalls were in utter darkness. One by one, 15 invisible dancers, their joints attached to tiny spotlights, began to colonise the far end of the hall, forming fresh constellations with every pose. The audience smiled in wonder, like tots at a planetarium. Tree of Codes, which had

Tail-end Terry

It is often said that Terence Rattigan’s ‘thing’ was his homosexuality and that his disguising of it coloured everything he wrote. But he had, I think, another secret up his sleeve that is still little known. He was a tailgunner in the RAF. Indeed the service was his family and a thread of blue serge

His dark materials | 16 March 2017

The enticingly subversive films of Paul Verhoeven were very tempting to me as a schoolboy. When I hit 14, the Dutch director released RoboCop and the excitement among me and my friends at catching two hours of unmitigated ultra-violence reached fever pitch. He did not disappoint. That was in 1988 and it was interesting later


Ersatz erudition

Harry Potter, who uses the stage name Daniel Radcliffe, is a producer’s delight. By now it’s becoming clear that the four-eyed wizard lacks distinction as an actor. He’s not a comedian, certainly not a leading man or a heart-throb, and he hasn’t the ugliness or eccentricity to be a villain. But this Polyfilla quality means


Fatal distraction

I don’t think that I have left a theatre many times feeling as depressed and irritated as after the Royal Opera’s Die Meistersinger, in the new production by Kasper Holten. The run of the Royal Opera’s recent productions of Wagner — appalling Tristans, a dire succession of Parsifals, mediocre Rings — hadn’t prepared me for


To die for

Down the Mighty River with Steve Backshall (BBC2) was perfect Sunday-night TV — one of the most enjoyable adventure travelogues I’ve watched in ages. So I was quite surprised to see it reviewed lukewarmly by another critic. One of the critic’s objections was that the scene where Backshall spots a bird of paradise through his


Got the message?

To cut to the chase, my ten-year-old daughter really liked Beauty and the Beast. And given you’re probably going to be watching this as a child’s plus-one, I’d say hers is the view that matters. Her favourite character was Le Fou, the baddie’s gay sidekick, though I’m not sure she realised. But then the gay


A matter of life and death | 16 March 2017

It was the crime story that showed us just how much China has changed since its years of social, political and economic isolation. The discovery on 16 November 2011 of the dead body of the British businessman Neil Heywood in Room 1605 of the Lucky Holiday Hotel in the Chinese city of Chongqing was not