Damian Thompson

Forward thinking

The award of a knighthood to the composer James MacMillan will have ruined last weekend for lots of unsavoury people: the Guardian arts desk, which decided he’d lost his mojo as soon as he turned his back on the left; Kirsty Wark, whose squawking is mimicked in MacMillan’s Scotch Bestiary; the SNP, which he detests;

Arts feature

Elysian fields

There is a phrase that has been fashionable for years in wonkland — places like the upper echelons of the civil service and high-end think tanks. The phrase is ‘evidence-based policy-making’. There, I bet that’s got you going. When I was a citizen of wonkland and heard those words from the Sir Humphreys and Lady

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Walking with cadence

I often regret that I’m writing in the past tense here, but never more than about milonga. It is such a smash show in every way that by rights it would be having a six-month run where everyone can see it, rather than five measly days at the elite Sadler’s Wells dance theatre where people


Own goal

For nine years Patrick Marber has grappled with writer’s block (which by some miracle doesn’t affect his screenplay work), but the pipes are now ungummed and wallop! his new bolus of creativity splatters across the Dorfman stage. It’s a wordy three-hander set in the swamp of non-league football. Marber brilliantly captures the grubbiness and despairing


Between Kafka and Crossroads

We opera critics love gazing into crystal balls. We’re particularly good at discovering Ed Milibands and backing them to the hilt. Postwar opera is full of them. Take Hans Werner Henze. He was considered the future his entire life. Yet watching a presentation of two of his chamber operas at the Guildhall School of Music


Bad robots

You’d think scientists might have realised by now that creating a race of super-robots is about as wise as opening a dinosaur park. Yet in Channel 4’s new sci-fi series Humans (Sunday), the manufacturers of the extremely lifelike cyber-servants known as ‘synths’ were weirdly confident that nothing could go wrong. Nor did it cross their


Fairground attraction | 18 June 2015

Gianlorenzo Bernini stressed the difficulty of making a sculpture of a person out of a white material such as marble. Imagine, he said, that someone we knew well whitened his hair, his beard, his lips and his eyebrows, and, were it possible, his eyes. Would we recognise him? This is not a problem encountered by


A sting in the tail

Mr Holmes stars Ian McKellen as the great detective in his old age and while it could have proved a touching character study — who are you, not just when your mind starts to fail, but when the mind for which you are famed starts to fail? — it veers off in so many tedious