Latest Issue: 20-27 December 2014
20-27 December 2014
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18 December 2014 by Robert Thicknesse

There I was getting ready to write about the “Gilbert and Sullivan revival” when the obvious truth dawned that they have never gone away. Even if traditional purveyors like the D’Oyly Carte and Carl Rosa opera companies fell on lean times, a million amateur, university and school performances have gone on as ever

18 December 2014 by John Morrish

This Christmas, the BBC has opted to avoid the troubles of our current world by plunging us into the recent past. Amid the usual round of tinsel-bedecked episodes of sitcoms, soaps and panel games, there are three period dramas.

18 December 2014 by Mark Lawson

The announcement that the hole left in the London Palladium schedule by the closure of the X Factor musical I Can’t Sing! would be filled with a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats led to some feline media remarks about the substitute being a safe Christmas option.

18 December 2014 by Rick Jones

Although the current talk is often of newly founded girls’ cathedral choirs and their success, there is not a recording this Christmas to touch that of Byrd: the Three Masses on the Hyperion label (CDA68038) by the boys and men of Westminster Cathedral under conductor Martin Baker.

18 December 2014 by D.J. Taylor

One curious thing about the festive radio schedules is how often the same names predominate. Are there certain presenters and performers to whom the commissioning editors’ thoughts automatically turn at this time of the year? At any rate the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, winds her way through the proceedings like tinsel around a yule log, and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop is not far behind.

18 December 2014 by Francine Stock

The story of New Yorker Louis Zamperini, who died in July aged 97, is studded with facts that few fiction writers could smuggle through with credibility. The altar boy who stole and lied, who could run so fast he represented his country at the Munich Olympics, served in the US Air Force, was shot down over the Pacific,

Previous issues

11 December 2014 by Laura Gascoigne

The opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics would not have been complete without a performance of “Jerusalem”. The solo voice of 11-year-old Humphrey Keeper soaring over the stadium’s reconstruction of “England’s green and pleasant land” struck that special chord of mystical patriotism that only the poetry of William Blake can touch.

11 December 2014 by Mark Lawson

Stephen sondheim wrote two music­als in the latter half of the 1980s that could not superficially be more different. Into the Woods (1986) combines figures from children’s literature – Little Red Riding Hood, Jack on his beanstalk – into a comic romp, while Assassins (1990) is probably Broadway’s most adult score: a homicidal songbook dramatising nine of the people who have tried to kill (some succeeding, others not) an American president, from Lincoln to Ford.

11 December 2014 by D.J. Taylor

The link between literature and hard cash is insufficiently appreciated by critics. Why, for example, are the novels of Alexandre Dumas filled with terse, interrogative dialogue? Because the author of The Count of Monte Cristo was less interested in the aesthetic effect produced by this treatment than in the fact that he was being paid per line.

11 December 2014 by John Morrish

Professor jim Al-Khalili of Surrey University is the man the BBC turns to when it wants someone sensible to talk about physical science. On radio and TV, with a minimum of histrionics, he discusses, enthuses and explains. This week, though, he met his match.

11 December 2014 by Francine Stock

When my family lived abroad in the 1960s, a feature of my childhood television viewing was a tea-time series about what seemed the never-ending voyage of the Kon-Tiki, a representation of the 1947 expedition led by the adventurous ethnographer Thor Heyerdahl.

04 December 2014 by Mark Lawson

David Hare and David Edgar belong to the same generation – Hare born in June 1947, Edgar eight months later – and collaborated in the left-wing touring theatre scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, working on so-called “state of England” plays.

04 December 2014 by Brian Morton

It’s too soon to be talking about a “post-referendum” spirit in Scottish culture. Novelist Ian Rankin recently described the ballot as too “toxic” to figure in fiction for the time being at least. But as the toxicity slowly fades, it has become clear that there is something new in the air or, maybe more accurately, a return of something old.

04 December 2014 by D.J. Taylor

The latest instalment of what is now becoming a Radio 4 institution kicked off with an appearance by that game old trouper Sir Terry Wogan (27 November). The year was 1953, at which time young Terence was in sight of his fifteenth birthday and living in Limerick, but the record of his adventures

04 December 2014 by Francine Stock

Jason Reitman’s film about intimate relationships begins with a long view: specifically it’s the perspective on earth from six billion kilometres, the view from the Voyager space probe that inspired Carl Sagan’s musing on the significance (or otherwise) of the human race in his 1994 book Pale Blue Dot.

27 November 2014 by Laura Gascoigne

In 1851, the Great Exhibition drew crowds to the Crystal Palace like moths to a lamp. But one young visitor resisted its lure – when taken to the exhibition, William Morris refused to go in.

27 November 2014 by Francine Stock

The subject of religious extremism has engendered powerful films in recent years – from Haim Tabakman’s study of an unorthodox relationship between two ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem, Eyes Wide Open to Abderrahmane Sissako’s striking Timbuktu about the influence of fundamentalist Muslims in Mali, which will be on release in the spring.

27 November 2014 by D.J. Taylor

Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies (1930), opens on a storm-wracked cross-Channel ferry whose upper decks are populated by the improbably named minions (“Faith”, “Charity”, “Fortitude”) of “the woman evangelist”, Mrs Melrose Ape.

27 November 2014 by John Morrish

You may have heard of the “listicle”: an article in the form of a list, or a list purporting to be an article. The first episode of Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History of Science Fiction (22 November) was what you might call a “listumentary”:

27 November 2014 by Mark Lawson

One of the duties of theatre is to explore lesser-known work by canonical dramatists and two British theatres have just admirably fulfilled this obligation. Welsh writer-actor Emlyn Williams (1905-87) wrote two popular hits – the thriller Night Must Fall and the melodrama The Corn is Green

27 November 2014 by Robert Thicknesse

The sun rises over the Moscow River; birdsong flutters out amid shimmering strings, a folky melody winds through a musical fabric of light and air. The Kremlin guards wake, joshingly recall their atrocities of the previous night, and the human world shatters the calm beauty of the natural one.

20 November 2014 by Laura Gascoigne

There is a long-standing rivalry between Brussels and Antwerp over ownership of the legacy of Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) going back to the artist’s own day. When, after his return from Italy in 1608, Rubens was appointed court painter to the Archduke Albert and Archduchess Isabella

20 November 2014 by Francine Stock

What makes a man good or ­otherwise? Aydin (Haluk Bilginer) is a grizzled former actor – the owner of a rambling hotel tucked into the Anatolian mountains. He is a patriarchal figure in a small community, both landlord and respected artist, husband to a beautiful if melancholy young wife,

20 November 2014 by John Morrish

Many people think their jobs were better “in the old days”. It is not just about workload and job security. It is about the replacement of autonomy and freedom by regulation and paperwork. That is true of doctors, academics, teachers, journalists and, probably, priests. It is especially true of police officers.

20 November 2014 by Mark Lawson

Following the world premiere of Wildefire, a new Roy Williams play about the Metropolitan Police, the Hampstead Theatre will revive Tiger Country, writer-director Nina Raine’s drama set among NHS staff. This means that the Hampstead repertoire suddenly resembles a mainstream TV schedule, with detective and medical procedurals in adjoining slots.

20 November 2014 by D.J. Taylor

The brief of Independent columnist Grace Dent in this six-part series is to sit down with various Titans of recent BBC radio comedy and thereby sketch out its history between the somewhat arbitrary dates of 1975 and 2005.