From riveting Hitchockian melodrama to bigoted drivel: BBC’s Unprecedented reviewed

Back to the West End at last. After a four- month lay-off, I grabbed the first available chance to catch a show in central London. I joined 20 enthusiasts at the ‘West End Musical — Silent Disco Walking Tour’, which convened outside a Fitzrovia pub. We were given a pink bracelet and a set of headphones that pumped musical hits into our ears. Our cheerleader, Sean, introduced us to his helpers, Tiny Tom and Sticky Vicky, who taught us a quick dance move. It transpired that we were the performers as well as the audience. We set off across the West End like a military convoy of unemployed choristers. At

Rory Sutherland

Why our greatest inventors are supreme hucksters

People often tell me I have a strange way of looking at the world. Obviously, it doesn’t seem strange to me. But I do tend to see the world backwards. For instance, most people think the principal obstacles to economic and technological growth are all about supply. To me, it’s all in the demand. I have met one Italian economist, Mario Fabbri, who agrees. But apart from him, me and maybe Matt Ridley, there’s nobody else. Now, how crazy is this idea? What if the biggest constraint to progress really is a question of psychology, not economics? Certainly, if it is true, it should not surprise us that economists and

James Graham’s small new drama is exquisite: BBC Four’s Unprecedented reviewed

Let’s face it. Theatre via the internet is barely theatre. It takes a huge amount of creativity and inventiveness to make anything remotely like a theatrical drama in the digital sphere. The BBC’s Culture in Quarantine team have invited some talented writers and actors to try and crack it. Unprecedented begins with ‘Viral’, by James Graham, in which three 18-year-old lads enjoy a Zoom chat from their bedrooms. The craftsmanship in this small script is exquisite. The characters are united by a common purpose — creating a globally popular video clip — while each has to grapple with a personal crisis. One has a dying granny, one is coming to

Will Zooming replace real-life socialising?

‘Are you seriously telling me you would rather meet up on Zoom than in reality?’ I asked a friend as we got stuck into an argument about the future of our existence. ‘Well, it’s all we’ve got,’ he argued. No, it really isn’t. But how to explain to people who refuse to stop being locked down that lockdown is, to all intents and purposes, over? I get the distinct impression that a lot of people have so thoroughly enjoyed sitting on their backsides doing nothing — sorry, I mean finding themselves and getting in touch with their inner child and being close to nature — that they don’t want it

How to go clubbing without leaving your living room

To my surprise, what I miss most about life before the lockdown are parties. As others pine for restaurants and theatres, I am longing for sticky floors and 4 a.m. Ubers. Give me plastic cups and music so loud you feel it in your kidneys. Sylvia Plath wrote disparagingly of the ‘shrill tinsel gaiety of parties with no purpose’. It’s precisely that shrillness and pointlessness that I’m yearning for: drunk young bodies cramming together for no reason other than to be close to one another. At the weekend, my longing finally spilled over and I decided to make do online. I put on a nice top and loaded my lashes

How Tom Stoppard foretold what we’re living through

A TV play by Tom Stoppard, A Separate Peace, was broadcast live on Zoom last Saturday. I watched as my screen divided itself into four cubes in which appeared the actors, performing from home. The play was written in 1964 and it’s well suited to the split-split screen format because no physical contact occurs between the characters. Director Sam Yates added some rudimentary music and a bit of wobbly background scenery. Mr Brown (David Morrissey) is a mysterious Englishman who asks to be admitted to a private hospital in the middle of the night. Though he has no symptoms he’s given a bed, and he pays his bills in cash.

I hate joggers more than ever

Empathy and kindness in these difficult times come more easily to some than others, but I’m trying. I had heart surgery in November to repair a faulty mitral valve. Recovery has been terribly scientific. On my daily walk, a heart monitor is synched with an app on my phone so through earphones I can hear my heart rate as well as encouraging messages in a voice I find indistinguishable from the American cultural critic Bonnie Greer. Mainly, my walk is spent suppressing the inner Nazi who can’t believe the human race still refuses to be more like me. Particularly at a time when good manners and common sense are now

Dear Mary: How do I get out of bossy chain emails?

Q. Each day while working from home, I have at least one hour-long meeting via Zoom. One of my colleagues has a dodgy internet connection and has become a terrible menace as we all politely sit through minutes of unpleasant white noise while she tries to communicate her thoughts. The meeting chair never seems to take a hard line on this; do you have any advice? — M.C., Fosbury, Wilts A. You would do well to join the Zoom meeting via a computer rather than your phone. Zoom will highlight the person who is speaking at any one time, so when the offender’s name comes up on the screen, you

NHS workers deserve our applause – but so does the telecoms industry

Next time there is a highly deserved round of public applause for NHS workers, do add one additional clap for the tele-communications industry for — so far — keeping the show on the road. High-speed broadband, for those lucky enough to have it, has made self-isolation more tolerable, and may have significantly reduced the impact of the disease in Britain. I say this because, for several weeks before it became mandatory to stay indoors, a large number of people did so voluntarily. That includes me. Ever since my grandfather contracted jaundice and so avoided landing at Suvla Bay in Gallipoli, there has been a proud family tradition of calling in