Fathomless faith Premium

21 July 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
“Since the magic moment when I first opened my eyes in the sea, I have never been able to see, think or live as I did before,” wrote the French pioneer of underwater exploration, Jacques Cousteau.

Constant recall Premium

21 July 2016 | by Mark Lawson
A celebrated novel about persistent recollection has now become a distant memory for its earliest readers. Anyone who was on the brink of their teens – the age of the book’s protagonist, Leo Colston, for most of the action – when L.P. Hartley’s novel The Go-Between came out in 1953 would now be 75, a decade senior to the “old Leo” who narrates the novel.

Everything understood Premium

21 July 2016 | by Rick Jones
The opening weekend of the 2016 Proms took just the first evening to find its feet. Tchaikovsky’s wordless fantasy on Romeo and Juliet was to have begun the season but now followed an unscheduled Marseillaise, in defiant response to the Bastille Day killings.

Spy in the ointment Premium

21 July 2016 | by John Morrish
With a drama series that deals with terrorism and anarchy, the BBC seems to be attempting to upset the cosy conventions of Sunday night television. But at the same time, its adaptation of The Secret Agent (from 17 July) retained the surface attributes of the Victorian costume drama: street urchins, women in aprons and a steam train or two.

The write touch Premium

21 July 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Our very own Mark Lawson began his spirited dash through the life and times of Daniel Defoe (14 July) with an inspection of the subject categories in Hatchards, Piccadilly.

Bard at the Proms Premium

14 July 2016 | by Rick Jones
The official guide to this summer’s Proms, which began last night, is 170 pages long and needs a guide itself to negotiate, so here goes. Ahead of the Last Night on 10 September are 88 concerts, mostly at the Royal Albert Hall, which in this Shakespearean season one might call the Kensington O, much as The Globe Theatre was “the wooden O” in Henry V.

American icon Premium

14 July 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
How does an artist become an icon? It helps to have an iconic face. Look at Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, or Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe. Kahlo had a major exhibition at Tate Modern in 2005; O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is being honoured with one now (until 30 October).

Journey of hope Premium

14 July 2016 | by John Morrish
While Britain has been convulsed by the European Union referendum vote and its consequences, the refugee crisis has carried on as usual. We just don’t hear so much about it.

Seeing is believing Premium

14 July 2016 | by Mark Lawson
In theatre there are only a few examples – Stephen Sondheim’s musical Merrily We Roll Along is one – of a show that flops when first produced, then enters the repertoire through revivals. Even rarer is a play that starts as a fabled disaster and is later acclaimed as a masterpiece. But such is the case with the Northern Irish playwright Brian Friel’s Faith Healer.

Mind over matter Premium

14 July 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
A pair of ingenious pieces of drama, developed in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust’s Experimental Stories scheme and directed by Nadia Molinari, could only be described as examinations of consciousness.

Here’s looking at you, war Premium

06 July 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
Almost the first thing you see on entering Real to Reel: A Century of War Movies (to 8 January 2017) is a ghostly monochrome sequence of a gigantic explosion. It is of a mine going up at precisely 7.20 a.m. on 1 July 1916, at Hawthorn Ridge on the Somme.

Crowning glory Premium

06 July 2016 | by Joanna Moorhead
“You rocked the palace!” shouted Prince Harry to Chris Martin across the stage at Kensington Palace; and there was really no better verdict on the Sentebale Concert than that.

Masterful masterclasses Premium

06 July 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The question of what makes great theatre acting can attain a near-theological complexity. The most workable definition for me is that the stage greats give an account of their characters that is physically and psychologically convincing and compelling, finding moments that another actor – or even the writer – would not have noticed. This lightning struck twice last week.

The grateful deaf Premium

06 July 2016 | by John Morrish
Deafness is a sensory impairment, but if you are deaf – or Deaf – it is also central to your membership of a strong community with its own institutions and, crucially, language.

Living with the consequences Premium

06 July 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The first instalment of Mike Wooldridge’s new four-parter (3 July) began deep in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. This – with forays into South Dakota – was the setting for an immensely poignant account of the tribulations visited upon an extended Denver family named Arnold, numbers of whom had been directly affected by the fallout of a heart-rending dilemma centred on thirtysomething Chad.

Let there be light Premium

29 June 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
A curious thing happened to English music after the glories of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – Byrd, Tallis, Dowland, Purcell and the rest: native talent ran dry, and we became the sluggards of Europe. On the plus side, we took to importing talented foreigners and making them superstars. From the time of Handel onwards, London was the place where they could find fame – and loads of money.

Open to the world Premium

29 June 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
The unveiling of a bigger, better Tate Modern marks a “landmark moment”, said Lord Browne, chairman of Tate Trustees, at the recent press launch of the gallery’s new extension. “At a time when some would seek to turn inwards, the new Tate Modern is a reminder of what can be achieved when we remain open to the world’s ideas and cultures.”

Analysing the analyst Premium

29 June 2016 | by John Morrish
When historians present television programmes, should they stick to what they know? This week, for instance, Freud: Genius of the Modern World (30 June) was presented by Bettany Hughes, an expert on Ancient Greece.

Age before beauty Premium

29 June 2016 | by Mark Lawson
One of the first shows in the year-long London West End residency of Kenneth Branagh’s company was Terence Rattigan’s Harlequinade, a farce about a production of Shakespeare’s teenage tragedy in which Branagh played a Shakespearean veteran still squeezing into Romeo’s tights despite arthritis.

A Greene, unpleasant land Premium

29 June 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Lady Diana Cooper, who took a keen interest in both men, once remarked that whereas Evelyn Waugh was “a bad man for whom an angel was struggling”, his fellow Catholic convert Graham Greene was “a good man possessed of a devil”.

Doodles with a difference Premium

23 June 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
“Doodle like da Vinci to strengthen your memory and beat creative block,” recommended the email from Cass Art that recently dropped into my mailbox. Along with colouring, doodling is the latest relaxation fad for stressed adults. Is this just another example of our society’s infantilisation, or is there more to it?

Dark power of Verdi Premium

23 June 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
The tormented king (the frightful Philip II) fears his son Carlo is plotting against him, so he calls up the Grand Inquisitor and asks if he has the right, the justification, to have his son killed. “Why not?” says the priest. God did. Then he and Philip lay on an IS-style mass-execution of heretic Flemings to make a point about peacekeeping.

For worse, for poorer Premium

23 June 2016 | by John Morrish
Divorce and family breakdown are horrible, especially if you seek resolution in the courts, which are both gladiatorial and extortionate. In Mr v Mrs: Call the Mediator (21 June) we were shown the alternative: meeting outside the court system and trying to find common ground.

Slick, quick and clichéd Premium

23 June 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Making fairy tales its business, Disney Theatrical Productions has become something of a business fairy tale. Set up by the movie company in 1993 to turn hit children’s films into stage shows, DTP has made billions from The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins and others.

The holiest of heights Premium

23 June 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The thirteenth series of this Radio 4 staple broke upon the ether with a zealous consideration of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius (14 June).

Fleshing out the ruins Premium

16 June 2016 | by Joanna Moorhead
What is most extraordinary about Rievaulx, the twelfth-century Cistercian abbey in Yorkshire, is that it is there at all. One minute you are cruising down a remote country lane, passing hawthorn bushes and fields full of sheep and the occasional cottage; and the next minute, wham!

Back on the road Premium

16 June 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
ENO has been through a ghastly period, losing its artistic director, its chief conductor, a chairman, an executive director, the trust of the Arts Council, a load of its audience and much confidence in itself.

Ape expectations Premium

16 June 2016 | by John Morrish
René Descartes was robust on the matter of animals: essentially auto­mata, they do not have language so they do not think. In our own time, Noam Chomsky has insisted that language is a uniquely human attribute.

Gangsters and molls Premium

16 June 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Outside of pantomimes and summer shows, the scheduling of theatre productions is dictated by a set of variables that include availability of talent and the dates of preceding shows.

A chorus from dawn to dusk Premium

09 June 2016 | by Rick Jones
Birds learned how to create melody long before mankind did. And no other animal ever got there: elephants merely trumpet their one-note vuvuzelas; whales boom beneath the ocean waves, but nothing sings like the birds.

High price to pay Premium

09 June 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Thrillers are a form that theatre has largely ceded to the screen, possibly because fights are hard to stage, car chases impossible and there are strict rules about the firing of guns in auditoria.

Peggy’s pickings Premium

09 June 2016 | by Joanna Moorhead
In the late 1930s, as Europe teetered towards war, an American woman travelled feverishly around the continent buying up an essential commodity that she believed would be at dire risk in a Nazi-run continent and that would be an essential building-block to a post-war future.

For the love of a son Premium

09 June 2016 | by John Morrish
One of the turning points in the public estimation of Tony Blair was when he was challenged in his own constituency by Reg Keys, who had lost a son fighting in Iraq. Keys’ passionate speech at the 2005 election count provided one of the most uncomfortable moments of Blair’s career.

Summer rosé compared Premium

09 June 2016
In two weeks’ time, the Great British Public will have made up its mind about continuing or ending membership of the European Union. Many wine enthusiasts are predicting that a Brexit vote would mean new trade tariffs, which could send the price of European wine rocketing.

God’s own players Premium

02 June 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The theatre director Phillip Breen starts a new production with an exercise book listing, on one page, the characters in each scene and, opposite, how he visualises the staging. For his latest show, though, no stationer’s shop sold a volume that was up to the task.

Another Austen Premium

02 June 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
Whit Stillman proved himself a dab hand at high-society comedy as long ago as 1990 with his brittle debut Metropolitan, an ensemble portrait of gilded Manhattan youth trying on adult attitudes for size. A couple more films followed, then a long silence until Damsels in Distress arrived, and underwhelmed, in 2011.

Top marks Premium

02 June 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
For the concerned parent of a GCSE-sitting schoolchild – I am one – nothing could have been more timely than All in the Mind’s feature on the question of exam-induced stress (24 May).

Flemish flourish Premium

02 June 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
Marking the publication of a new catalogue of its collection of Netherlandish drawings – 10 years in the making – the V&A has mounted a free exhibition, Master Strokes: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Golden Age (until 13 November).

Rock ’n’ roll composers Premium

02 June 2016 | by John Morrish
This week we saw the first episode of Revolution and Romance: Musical Masters of the 19th Century (31 May), a slick but rather undemanding three-part series about classical music.

Questions of guilt Premium

26 May 2016 | by Geoff Andrew
For many, the Cannes Film Festival is suggestive of a slightly tacky glamour. The French have long taken le cinéma seriously, however, and for all the red-carpet posturing, the world’s most famous film festival is indubitably a celebration of an illustrious international art form.

Playing the fool Premium

26 May 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The only problem for a young dramatist who has a huge hit early on – such as James Graham’s This House or Nick Payne’s Constellations – is the pressure to repeat the success. By chance, both playwrights are taking this test simultaneously.

Letting the music go Premium

26 May 2016 | by Rick Jones
Until 2015, the abbreviation LFBM stood for the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music but the airline sponsor withdrew after three decades and now the “L” stands for London. Without a principal backer, the programme has shrunk a little but audiences and artists have remained loyal both to each other and to a great institution.

Weird but not wonderful Premium

26 May 2016 | by John Morrish
There is definitely a gap in the television market for short, dark plays with creepy and fantastical twists. The question is whether there is a market in the gap. Would anyone today watch something like Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected? Or do they get all the weirdness they want from Doctor Who?

Believe it or not Premium

26 May 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The Radio 3 Sunday Feature slot is a consistently high-class affair, and Michael Goldfarb’s elegant résumé of the career of the seventeenth-century philosopher Benedict Spinoza (22 May) was a treat.

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