Culture

Culture

The good, the bad and the ugly in books, exhibitions, cinema, TV, dance, music, podcasts and theatre.

A choice of this year’s gift books

More from Books

Obviously, the best and funniest gift book out this Christmas is my own Still a Bit of Snap in the Celery (Abacus, £16.99), about the horrors and delights of being 60, but I am far too humble and modest to mention it, so I won’t. Very nearly as good is Bob Cryer’s Barry Cryer: Same

Julie Burchill

Britney Spears is back with a vengeance

More from Books

I am working on a play about Marilyn Monroe at the moment and, reading Britney Spears’s book, the similarities of these two fragile blondes came to mind. Both were celebrated and castigated for their woman-child sex appeal; both struggled with sinister Svengalis – Darryl Zanuck and Mickey Mouse. But one big difference between the two

What would life on Mars actually look like?

More from Books

Just as extreme altitudes have notable effects on the human body and mind, so too does extreme wealth seem to have a particular effect on psychology. Or at least that’s how it appears when you look at the shared ambition of two of the world’s most prominent billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos. Both men

A history of the onion leaves one crying for more

More from Books

I am a big fan of Mark Kurlansky. His Cod is one of a handful of books I recommend to people keen to learn about the way in which certain foods have helped shape the world we live in. But while The Core of the Onion has its moments and is an enjoyable read, it’s

When atonal music was original and exciting

More from Books

In the 1960s and 1970s, British music was transfixed by the Manchester School. Led by the composers Harrison Birtwistle, Alexander Goehr and Peter Maxwell Davies, this northern powerhouse of art music also included the brilliant pianist John Ogden and the conductor Elgar Howarth. All five had studied in the city in the early 1950s. Yet

Britain’s forgotten female pop artist 

Exhibitions

T o describe Pauline Boty as a ‘pioneer’ is a bit like calling someone a ‘one-off’. It’s not an adequate description of her in any way. Pauline was the only female British pop-art painter of the early 1960s. You may not know of her. She died in 1966, aged 28, and her name has remained

Kaurismaki is the business: Fallen Leaves reviewed

Cinema

Even though Aki Kaurismaki has won every award going and is a household name in his native Finland, where he is treated like a god, it may be that you’ve never heard of him. He is the business. He specialises in understated dramas about deadpan losers whose hopes are often crushed, but who somehow find

The award-winning choreographer who fell foul of the mob

Arts feature

Ebullient, articulate and eminently sensible, Rosie Kay never wanted to be a martyr to the culture wars. A modern dance choreographer with an impressive track record – including 5 Soldiers, an award-winning exploration of army life, contributions to the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympics and a fellowship at Oxford – she would rather be

Can Italy reverse its falling birth rate? 

Radio

Anne McElvoy is on the road again, exploring the state of modern Europe. Following her Radio 4 programme, The Reinvention of Germany in April, the Politico journalist has travelled to Padua, in northern Italy, where reactions to the rise of the right-wing populist Giorgia Meloni appear to vary. Is the 46-year-old PM a breath of

A bit too short: Napoleon reviewed

Cinema

Ridley Scott’s Napoleon, starring Joaquin Phoenix, has a running time of two hours and 40 minutes, which is scant by today’s standards, but don’t worry: a four hour-plus director’s cut is on its way. So this is Scott’s Napoleon Abridged, you could say, and it does have the feel of a film that’s been scissored

Lloyd Evans

Our theatre critic applies to be director of the National Theatre

Arts feature

The director of the National Theatre will be stepping down in 2025. I’ve written to the chairman offering a new vision for Britain’s leading playhouse. Dear Sir Damon Buffini, I’m a reviewer of plays and a part-time theatre producer. In the past 20 years I’ve seen more than 2,000 shows, hundreds of them at your

Olivia Potts

No nonsense in the kitchen

More from Books

I rather bristle at newspaper column collections. They strike me as a bit lazy, a cheat’s way of getting another book under the belt, often just in time for the gift-giving season. When it comes to Rachel Cooke’s Kitchen Person, however, I have to eat my words. It draws from the 14 years of monthly

The last battle: The Future, by Naomi Alderman, reviewed

More from Books

The sirens sound in the street. The lockdown order comes. The images on the television are of chaos and illness, total societal collapse. The apocalypse is here, and where are the rich? Already holed up in their survival compounds, ready to ride out the end of the world before emerging to take control of what’s

The Duke of Windsor had much to be thankful for

More from Books

Once a King is trumpeted as ‘game-changing’, a ‘trove of never-before-seen papers which shed fresh light on the maligned Duke of Windsor’ and will ‘turn on its head long-accepted stereotypes’ about him. These are bold claims, but do they stack up? ‘The lost memoir of Edward Vlll’ actually consists of an early draft of the