Box of delights | 22 October 2011

I don’t know about you but I have to steel myself these days to turn on the Today programme in the morning. There is always the terrifying prospect that an infuriatingly overexcited Robert Peston will come on, barely able to contain his glee as he reports that one’s own bank or pension fund has just


The Biophilia live show at Harpa, Reykjavik is another cog in the complex wheel that makes up Björk’s eighth album, which is not simply a collection of nice songs, but a concept record about nature, a series of educational apps and a showcase for its specially created instruments. The performance is, however, where it all

Arts feature

Set art free

Too often art is subjugated to curators’ theories or interpretations. Let the work speak for itself, says Andrew Lambirth The casual observer of London’s art scene, or even the devoted reader of exhibition listings, might be forgiven for thinking that the range of shows available throughout the conspectus of the nation’s museums was of a

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The Royal Ballet

In its latest triple bill, the Royal Ballet pays tribute to three dance-makers who have marked distinctive epochs in its performance history. Its centrepiece is Frederick Ashton’s 1963 Marguerite and Armand. Created as a showcase for the now legendary partnership of Fonteyn/Nureyev, this one-acter highlights his unique talent for succinct storytelling, as Alexandre Dumas’ Lady


The Pitmen Painters; Honeypot

At last, it’s reached the West End. Lee Hall’s hit play, The Pitmen Painters, tells the heartening tale of some talented Geordie colliers who won national acclaim as artists during the 1930s. Hall, who wrote Billy Elliot, has done extremely well from a pretty limited set of dramatic techniques. He draws each of his coal



English Touring Opera, under the inspiring directorship of James Conway, is the most energetic and enterprising operatic company in the country, not only taking three operas round the country this autumn, and another couple next spring, but also touring sacred works by Buxtehude, Gesualdo and Bach to 15 destinations, mainly ecclesiastical. ETO is working with


Et tu, Hugh?

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall thinks it’s time we all went veggie (River Cottage Veg; Channel 4, Sunday). Coming from a man whose favourite dish is human placenta marinaded in fruit-bat extract, who slaughters his own pigs with a pocket knife and dances naked in their gore as he turns them into 2,058 varieties of artisanal black pudding,


Ford Madox Brown: Pre-Raphaelite Pioneer

Photographs of roadworks feature regularly in the Hampstead Village Voice but, even with the postmodern fashion for grungy subjects, no contemporary residents have made paintings of them. Yet that, astonishingly, was what Ford Madox Brown did in the 1850s, lugging his two-metre canvas on to The Mount, off Heath Street, to do it. Brown’s unlikely

Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light

Fra Angelico (1395–1455), Il Beato (‘the Blessed One’) to his contemporaries as well as to John Paul II, who beatified him in 1982, is probably best known today for his frescoes in Florence’s San Marco, the Dominican convent where he lived as a monk. Perhaps fearing that some art-lovers will question the wisdom of mounting

Claude Lorrain: The Enchanted Landscape

Claude Gellée (c.1600–1682), known as Claude Lorrain, started life as a pastry cook and despite turning his attentions from pies and patisserie to painting he never lost his love for confection. Although he is revered as the father of the landscape tradition and was hailed by Constable as ‘the most perfect landscape painter the world

The only way is up | 22 October 2011

Homes may continue to lose value, the euro becomes shakier by the day, the unemployed stay unemployed and even the Chinese economy shows signs of overheating, but the international art market seems to know only one direction: up. For the first half of 2011, Christie’s sold $3.2 billion in fine and decorative art (an improvement


We Need to Talk About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin was a horrible book and this is the horrible screen adaptation of that horrible book, and whether you will want to see it or not will, I suppose, depend on how much you are prepared to revisit that horror. At this point I’d love to say you needn’t bother,


Sunday sustenance

Before we knuckle down to the week’s offerings I’m going to seize the opportunity (this review is a one-off, so no need to panic) to champion a regular programme: Something Understood (Radio 4, Sunday mornings at 06:05 and repeated at 23:30). It’s on every week and, while some are better than others, I’ve never heard