Culture

Culture

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

The most original sea painter since Turner? Lowry

Exhibitions

In 1958 an elderly gentleman staying at the Castle Hotel in Berwick-upon-Tweed gave the receptionist a doodle he had made on the hotel’s notepaper. She kept it in a box and 43 years later, on the advice of Antiques Roadshow, sold it at auction for £8,000. ‘I don’t think anyone since Turner has looked at

Does it matter how posh pop stars are?

Pop

‘A working class hero is something to be.’ Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer must have missed the conflicted, sardonic edge to John Lennon’s lyric, from his 1970 song ‘Working Class Hero’, given their rush to scrub away the whiff of privilege in the crudest manner imaginable. Sunak, desperately, by means of bemoaning a childhood forever

Rushdie on how the best magical realism transcends fantasy

Radio

Ask the man in the street to quote a line from one of Salman Rushdie’s novels, and he might struggle. Ask him whether he’s heard the phrase, ‘Naughty but nice’, specifically in the context of cream cakes, and you will probably make his day. It was Salman Rushdie who came up with that slogan in

Stylish and potent: The Bikeriders reviewed

Cinema

Jeff Nichols’s The Bikeriders is based on the book by photojournalist Danny Lyon, first published in 1968, about his years embedded with a lawless motorcycle gang in Chicago. Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud, Loving) has imposed a fictional narrative arc and while it’s bogus in some respects and the arc quite familiar to anyone acquainted with

Lloyd Evans

Hard to get to grips with: Marie Curie: The Musical reviewed

Theatre

Marie Curie: The Musical is a history lesson combined with a chemistry seminar and it’s aimed at indignant feminists who want to agonise afresh over the wrongs of yesteryear. We meet the young Marie, wearing her signature widow’s frock, as she speeds towards Paris on a train from Poland. The essential materials of this musical

When piracy meets protest

Television

Sometimes there are advantages to being ill-informed. Knowing embarrassingly little about why 30 Greenpeace activists were jailed in Russia in 2013, or the wilder assertions made by the broadcaster Alex Jones (emphatically not the woman from The One Show) meant that two documentaries this week unfolded for me like the twistiest – if not necessarily

Sam Leith

I’ve finally shaken my Candy Crush addiction

More from Arts

Most of us, once we pass the age when we wash our own underpants, don’t play games on a PC or a console. We think ‘Twitch’ is what you get when your spouse stacks the dishwasher and ‘Discord’ is what comes next. But you bet we play Candy Crush on the commute. Mobile gaming is

Limp and lifeless: Freud’s Last Session reviewed

Cinema

Freud’s Last Session stars Anthony Hopkins and Matthew Goode and is a work of speculative fiction asking what would have happened if Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis had met to debate the existence of God. What if two of the greatest minds of the 20th century had the chance to thrash it out? Thrash it

How Miss La La captured Degas’s imagination

Exhibitions

‘Can you come Saturday morning to my studio, 19 bis rue Fontaine?’ Degas wrote to Edmond de Goncourt in 1879. ‘From 10.30 to half-past noon, I will have my négresse and her partner who will come expressly to be at your disposal.’ Not content with dangling from a rope by her teeth, she suspended a

The craft renaissance

Arts feature

As long ago as the 1960s, the poet Edward James was worried that traditional crafts were dying out. Having frittered much of the family fortune he had inherited, aged five, on supporting struggling surrealists (he commissioned the Mae West lips sofa and lobster telephone from a scuffling Dali) and on backing shows starring his actress

Damian Thompson

An exhilarating debut: Peltokoski’s Mozart Symphonies reviewed

The Listener

Grade: A- Here’s an oddly structured album of Mozart’s symphonies 35, 40 and 36 from the world’s most fashionable young Finnish conductor – and, no, it isn’t Klaus Makela, the 28-year-old maestro of the Oslo Philharmonic and Orchestre de Paris who’s taking over in Amsterdam and Chicago. It’s Tarmo Peltokoski, 24, who hasn’t yet had

Lloyd Evans

Eddie Izzard’s one-man Hamlet deserves top marks

Theatre

Every Hamlet is a failure. It always feels that way because playgoers tend to compare what they’re seeing with a superior version that exists only in their heads. And since disappointment is inevitable, it’s worth celebrating the successful novelties in Eddie Izzard’s solo version. He makes some valuable breakthroughs, especially in the comedic sections. Izzard

James Delingpole

How a TikTok dance craze turned into a brainwashing cult

Television

Because you don’t – I hope – use TikTok you will never have heard of the Wilking sisters. But back in the day (2020) they were huge, their homemade videos of dance routines performed at their suburban Michigan home attracting 127 million views. A year later, it all turned sour. Dancing for the Devil: The

Minor Linklater but fun: Hit Man reviewed

Cinema

Richard Linklater’s Hit Man is a minor Linklater but a minor Linklater is still an event. Also, after all those contemplative, existential films (Boyhood, the Before trilogy), who can blame him for letting his hair down with a sexy rom-com thriller that’s not concerned with deep questions. Though the film doesn’t add up to much,

An exclusive look at Graham Linehan’s Father Ted musical

Arts feature

The tree-lined streets of Rotherhithe are an odd place to unveil a West End musical. But this is a suitably odd situation. Graham Linehan – lauded comedy writer turned culture warrior – is about to unveil what he calls ‘a musical that may never be seen’. For much of the past 30 years, the idea

I worry Romesh Ranganathan might not have enough work

Television

Let’s say, for the purposes of this joke, that I was recently staying in a hotel and kept hearing through the wall a voice shouting, ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’ At first I assumed it was someone having sex – but I later found out that the next-door room was occupied by Romesh Ranganathan’s agent. This year’s

Lloyd Evans

Amazingly sloppy: Romeo & Juliet, at Duke of York’s Theatre, reviewed

Theatre

Romeo & Juliet is Shakespeare with power cuts. The lighting in Jamie Lloyd’s cheerless production keeps shutting down, perhaps deliberately. The show stars Tom Holland (also known as Spider-Man) whose home in Verona resembles a sound studio that’s just been burgled. There’s nothing in it apart from a few microphones on metal stands. He and

When Fauré played The Spectator

Classical

Gabriel Fauré composed his song cycle La bonne chanson in 1894 for piano and voice. But he added string parts later and he premièred that version in April 1898 at the London home of his friend Frank Schuster: 22 Old Queen Street, the building currently occupied by this very magazine. I’m not sure how much

Is there still life in British still life?

Exhibitions

‘The tyrannical rule of nature morte is, at last, over,’ announced Paul Nash in the Listener in 1931. ‘Apples have had their day.’ Since Cézanne fulfilled his famous boast that he would astonish Paris with an apple, artists had been trying the same trick in London, with limited success. Astonishment, unfortunately, only works once. Nash