Arts feature

Damian Thompson

Losing their religion | 21 July 2016

Scriabin once suggested that the audiences for his music should be segregated according to their degree of personal enlightenment, with the ‘least spiritually advanced’ in the worst seats. Unsurprisingly it didn’t happen. But perhaps the Southbank Centre should take up the challenge. For its 2016–17 season, the centre has devised a series of concerts and

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All in the mind | 21 July 2016

Mark Morris, the most musically communicative and naturally lyrical of choreographers of the past 30 years (and an absentee from London theatres for too long), made L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, a dance masterpiece of a Handel oratorio using John Milton’s words. It was a miracle of pastoral sweetness, in rustic, human, amorous dancing,


Power failure | 21 July 2016

Fracking is a British tradition. Since 1969 more than 200 sites have used hydraulic fracturing ‘without environmental catastrophes’ according to Dick Selley, an emeritus professor of geology, writing in the programme notes to Fracked! by Alistair Beaton. The satire takes the opposite view and regards fracking as a wicked novelty inflicted on rustic innocents by


On full beam

What’s the best first opera for a sceptical adult first timer? It’s a favourite topic among opera buffs, and once you get past the assumption that novices need to be spoon-fed familiar tunes, the consensus — slightly surprisingly — often settles on Jenufa. Surprisingly? Well, yes: Janacek still isn’t guaranteed box office (maybe people conflate


Courageous Kemp

Before I set about reviewing Ross Kemp: The Fight Against Isis (Sky 1), I thought I’d have a glance to see whether other critics had been as impressed as I was. Clearly the flip groovester from the Guardian — who opened, inevitably, with a jaunty quip about Grant from EastEnders — had seen a very


First impressions | 21 July 2016

The last boat I saw in the galleries on the Mound was a canoe that the Scottish painter Jock McFadyen had been using to explore viewpoints around the waterways of London. Now another vessel has sailed in, a full-scale recreation of the studio boat built in 1857 by the French painter Charles-François Daubigny, from the


Dahl by Spielberg

Nobody who witnessed it can have forgotten Mark Rylance summoning giants to his aid in Jerusalem. As Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, drug-dealing roustabout threatened with expulsion from his little patch of Eden, Rylance roared and drummed until the theatre shuddered with the sound of gigantic stomps approaching. That colossal performance brought him to international — as


Dramatic effect

It was hard to believe that Monday morning’s introduction to the Italian writer Primo Levi on Radio 4 lasted for only 15 minutes. It was so rich, multi-layered, filled with meaning. Presented by Janet Suzman, it was intended as a fanfare for the 11-part adaptation of Levi’s most original book, The Periodic Table, in which