Robert Moses was the man, they say, who built New York. He was never elected to anything, yet he had absolute control of all public works in the city for more than 40 years, until 1968. His record was mind-bending. He personally conceived and directed the building of 627 miles of New York parkways and expressways, seven of New York’s bridges, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the entire Long Island highway system; he built the Lincoln Centre arts complex, the United Nations, Jones Beach Park, JFK airport, Central Park zoo and the Shea Stadium; he built 658 playgrounds, 11 swimming pools, 673 baseball pitches and cleared thousands of acres of slums; he put up tower blocks for hundreds of thousands of families; he created vast acres of state parks and the Moses-Saunders Power Dam on the St Lawrence, one of the world’s engineering wonders.
Bloody Difficult Women is a documentary drama by the popular journalist Tim Walker, which looks at the similarities between Gina Miller and Theresa May. It’s well known that Walker detests our current prime minister and he refuses even to allow the Johnson name to sully his script. So although Boris was a key player in the story, he doesn’t appear on stage. Nor does May’s husband, Philip. And her influential advisers, Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill, are omitted too.
A couple of years ago, I happened to read Graham Norton’s third novel Home Stretch. Rather patronisingly, perhaps, I was surprised by how accomplished it was, especially in its sympathetic but melancholy portrait of life in a West Cork village. Yet, judging from ITV’s new adaptation of his first novel Holding, this was something he’d pulled off before – because, here again, it’s pretty clear both why Norton would want to write kindly about the kind of place he grew up in, and why he would have wanted to leave it.
Notoriously, the past is another country: what’s more, it’s a terrain for which the guidebooks need constantly to be rewritten. That’s one attraction of the new exhibition Postwar Modern at the Barbican. It’s a survey of what might seem all-too-familiar territory: British art in the two decades that followed VE day. Yet it succeeds in revealing numerous half-forgotten or undervalued movements and people, the good, the bad and – most intriguingly – candidates for reassessment.
Phantom of the Open is a comedy-drama telling a true story that would have to be true as no one would believe it. The subject is Maurice Flitcroft, a crane operator who took up golf at 46 after seeing it on the telly and entered the British Open in 1976, achieving the highest score ever. (‘Does that mean he’s won?’, asked his wife.) Dubbed ‘the world’s worst golfer’, he then hoaxed his way into further Opens, much to the incandescent rage of the snobbish authorities, and you’ll be rooting for him, of course.
Without fanfare or apology, the Royal Ballet appears to have rehabilitated Liam Scarlett, but what a tragic balls-up it has been. In 2019, having been accused of unspecified sexual misconduct, the choreographer and his work were cancelled both at Covent Garden and abroad. An internal report into his activities has never been published, so rumours and allegations persist, but the official line exonerated him without explanation.
It took a moment to realise Keeley Forsyth was there. There were already three musicians, faint figures on a dark stage, wreathed in dry ice. And then, to their side, one became aware of a patch of darkness that was a little darker than the rest, and which seemed to be moving. Even when she moved into the slightly less gloomy part of the stage, Forsyth remained hidden: this was a show of startling unease and intensity.
Scottish Opera’s new production of Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems to open in midwinter. Snow falls, fairies hurl snowballs and the aurora borealis flickers and arcs across the darkened sky. Meanwhile Britten’s score swoons and sighs, its drowsy clouds of string tone wafting above gently snoring basses to create an atmosphere whose every glimmer evokes perfumed warmth. It should be a contradiction, but it doesn’t feel that way at all.