Arts

Crossing the line

14 December 2017 | by Joanna Moorhead
The forgotten holy women of the north-east.

Documentary on the American author who wrote the Little House series

Modigliani resembled 'a young god disguised as a workman in his Sunday best'.

Absolute corruption

14 December 2017 | by Mark Lawson
The problem of power politics: Robert Harris' trilogy about Cicero adapted for the stage by Mike Poulton.

Branch and root

14 December 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Spotlight on the Tree of Life tradition in Mexican folk art.

Old Testament panto

07 December 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
Images of a humorous acceptance of human weakness

All rise please

07 December 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Atmospheric setting courts drama

Joyful Baroque Mysteries

07 December 2017 | by Rick Jones
Poetic prayers for Advent

Finger on the pulse

07 December 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Coming to terms with a health crisis

Lauds for the lady

07 December 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Docudrama about HM wins praise

Where were you on 9/11? I’d popped into a Turkish minimarket in north London where I found the shopkeeper transfixed by the screen on the counter, watching endless replays of the planes flying into the Twin Towers. The news channels were playing and replaying the footage, as if to convince themselves it had really happened.

All about Eve

29 November 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
This being a Michael Haneke film, the word “happy” in the title is wired with the same alarm as the word “funny” in his earlier Funny Games (so good he made it twice).

Events move so fast and theatre production so slowly that it is hard to stage topical drama. Sometimes, though, the news cycle and the repertoire blessedly coincide, as has happened with Matthew Campling’s The Secondary Victim.

Opera never got more operatic than this. And I don’t mean histrionic, tear-jerking, extravagant, melodramatic or full of dragons: those are just culinary add-ons.

A highlight of this fascinating documentary (26 November) was Frank Ormsby’s account of the phantasms that lay in wait for him throughout his working day.

Two composers separated by 450 years, but united in a common goal: to revitalise and refresh an ailing tradition of church music.

A BBC radio version of the novel in which Graham Greene was said by Evelyn Waugh to have recanted his faith.

Two new plays set in the TV industry at key periods.

May Morris' contribution to the Arts and Crafts movement celebrated.

Director Debbie Isitt talks about taking Nativity! The Musical on tour and recalls the dramas of her primary school's Christmas plays

An impressive three-parter about South America’s protest art movements.

In David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross, Chicago real estate agents, including Christian Slater as a slick star salesman, compete to sell their souls and fantastical land-packages.

It's classic serial time on the BBC. This year it’s Howards End (12 November), directed by Hettie Macdonald and adapted from E.M. Forster’s novel by the American dramatist Kenneth Lonergan.

A bittersweet story of a Hollywood legend on her uppers.

An extraordinarily moving account of the Irish town that welcomed Syrian refugees.

From the outside, the new Tate St Ives looks exactly like the old Tate St Ives. Inside, though, it’s transformed; during its 18-month closure it has doubled in size, with a spend of £20 million. The jewel in its crown is the new 6,500sq ft gallery chiselled into the hillside …

Brian Morton celebrates new releases from Stereophonics, Baxter Dury and Spontaneous Music Ensemble

Young Marx farcically depicts an 1850s London, in which Karl runs away from Keystone-like cops, pantingly arriving home to hide in a cupboard or up chimneys from police and debtors

George Orwell remembered as Martin Jennings' statue of the 1984 author is unveiled at the BBC's New Broadcasting House.

A new exhibition traces the development of the arts of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam during the formative first millennium AD when their artistic identities were still fluid.

In Albion, his latest stage play, Mike Bartlett examines pre-Brexit England through the eyes of Chekhov.

Blue Planet II shows some more extraordinary, amazing, mind-boggling scenes from below the surface of the world’s oceans.

Cesare is long, usually heavily cut, and ETO promises to give us every note … but hearing the sensational young soprano Soraya Mafi (Cleopatra) singing “Se pietà” – sad, intricate polyphony of voice, strings and lowing bassoon, with the soprano spinning spine-tingling melismas in the upper air – is no hardship at all.

A programme bent on exposing the evils of brash self-assertion and overstating one’s case.

Slow radio, slow television and faith are a partnership made in heaven

Fans of Guadagnino’s earlier films I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015) will be properly excited.

Mel Brooks' remake of Young Frankenstein as a stage musical

A white woman goes undercover to learn about being Muslim

Remember, remember

19 October 2017 | by Joanna Moorhead
We know what happened, and when, but it seems not why. A new show sheds light

Gallows humour

19 October 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
A hideously funny take on Soviet life

Untruth to power

19 October 2017 | by Mark Lawson
What politicians and lovers do best

Anthems for grown-ups

19 October 2017 | by Brian Morton
Trio of albums still at the top of the tree

Get thee to a nunnery

11 October 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Culture clash in the cloister

Drinking in the messages

11 October 2017 | by Anna Moore
Stations of Water, St Paul’s Cathedral, London

Sacred made simple

11 October 2017 | by Alexandra Coghlan
An opera in church vestments

Study in arrogance

11 October 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Enoch’s ghost haunts today’s politics

Music in the genes

11 October 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Dancing to the same tune

Monastic gems

05 October 2017 | by Joanna Moorhead
A sleepy market town in County Durham, Barnard Castle, holds one of the best collections of Spanish religious art in Britain. And right now these jewels, plus two remarkable Goyas, are on show in London at the Wallace Collection.

A monk’s Brexit

05 October 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
First-rate information delivered while giving us the strangely pleasurable sensation of being rapped over the knuckles and made to sit up straight.

From the adolescent heart

05 October 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Teen musings both funny and sad

Four hundred years of songs for Europe

Neatly pressed

05 October 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Young bloods transfer to West End.

Beauty behind pain

27 September 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
Kathe Kollwitz, the people’s printmaker, gets a long-overdue retrospective

Make-up and mend

27 September 2017 | by Mark Lawson
An oblique take on the October 1966 Aberfan disaster in South Wales

Unbroken hearts

27 September 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse
A new production that is a bit too studied

Future tense

27 September 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Strange but hauntingly plausible sci-fi

Light programmes

27 September 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Radio 2 marks its fiftieth birthday

Khovanshchina is packed with dramatic choruses, hymns, supplications and laments, hypnotic scenes of mystic visions, exotic dances, serene, folky paintings of nature to frame the often hideous human action.

It is one of the defining rivalries of tennis, which culminated in the memorable ding-dong of the Wimbledon men’s final in 1980.

This was a coronation of sorts – but with anticipation so high, let-down was perhaps inevitable.

Face the facts

21 September 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
A fascinating insight into the ancient art of making death masks

Unlikely couplings

21 September 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
The way we live, and love, now

The show celebrates 20 years of the Bethlem Gallery, set up in 1997 to showcase the work of current and former patients and now housed in an imposing art deco building.

Is The Tablet recommending Ter Agios Numini for your home stereo or iPod? Well, with some caution, yes, but imagine the cred and kudos among goth-y nephews that it might gain.

Work on this painstaking account of Britain’s efforts to “build decent social housing” over the past century and a half was well advanced before the Grenfell tragedy gave most of its underlying themes a dreadful contemporary focus.

The revival of Loot that marks five decades since the writer’s death is the first performance with all the blue-pencil marks erased. Even in its bowdlerised form, the drama was calculated to have many theatregoers’ eyebrows touching the auditorium roof.

Upstart Crow is another of Ben Elton’s funny forays into the foreign country of the past, where the great figures and events of history are thoroughly cut down to size.

Did he choose, or was he chosen? How far was Judas really responsible for his betrayal of Christ?

Theatre productions roughly divide between the kind that make the writer famous – new with original style or content – and those that encourage celebration of the director: surprising interpretations of well-known works.

Anyone hoping that a drama entitled Doctor Foster might involve a jaunt to Gloucester and a shower of rain may wish to retire gracefully with a good book.

The late-Victorian houses in my street are increasingly being “modernised” by new owners who transform their interiors into blank white boxes, unrelieved by pictures or decorative objects: in a word, soulless.

Knowing how the Radio 4 commissioning editors go about their business, I couldn’t quite work out how Richard Holmes’s celebration of the genius of John Keats (3 September) got the committee’s nod.

Fun and music at Britain’s biggest faith festival

Setting the record straight

31 August 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
In the wake of events at Charlottesville, Virginia, Kathryn Bigelow’s historical drama Detroit could hardly be more topical.

Delicious as ever

31 August 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
New team delivers the baked goods

i-Messiah

31 August 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Hi-tech meets the gospels

Toilet humour

31 August 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Does class still matter?

This starchy division between boyish and girly, between snails and puppy dogs’ tails and sugar and spice, is reinforced on social media, in films, books and by parents. I don’t remember it being like this when I was growing up in the 1970s: so what’s happened in the intervening years?

Proms away

17 August 2017 | by Rick Jones
Once or twice a season, the Proms decamps from the Royal Albert Hall to a new venue; and last Saturday it was Southwark Cathedral.

The story of the courtship between J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife-to-be, Edith Bratt, sounds like the plot of a Victorian novel – all enforced separations, grown-ups’ disapproval, and seething religious tension.

If the point of a portrait is to record a person’s outer appearance, then it seems pretty clear that the camera does the job quicker and better than a painter.

Food for the soul

17 August 2017 | by Anna Moore
Autumn festival highlights

Faith in Edinburgh

16 August 2017 | by Mark Lawson
God is all around in this year’s shows

The Ben Uri's latest show comes out fighting on behalf of Polish-born artists who, apart from Sheffield’s Graves Gallery’s enterprising 2014 exhibition “Pole Position”, have been largely ignored by our public galleries.

Set to an old-fashioned libretto, La clemenza di Tito presents an unadorned face to the world, far from the bumptious joys of Figaro and The Magic Flute, and yet it attains extraordinary depths of luminous enlightenment.

Thomas More’s Utopia was published 500 years ago last year, so BBC4’s current three-part series Utopia: In Search of the Dream is not so much in search of a topicality as behind the curve.

Despite the huge popularity of his musicals, or possibly because of it, Andrew Lloyd Webber has been regarded as unfashionable for most of his career. As his seventieth birthday approaches, however, his works are in high demand.

For an A-grade English comedian, P.G. Wodehouse turns out to have spent remarkably little time in his native land. There were childhood stints in late-Victorian Hong Kong, with his colonial magistrate father, successful raids on Great War-era Broadway (where he married an actress) and 1920s Hollywood, followed by tax exile in 1930s France.

Since 2014, when the Festival coincided with the final run-up to the Scottish Independence referendum, making plays a part of the campaign, politics has become a special subject at Edinburgh.

Some ideas just seem so brilliant, so breathtakingly obvious, that you can only slap the forehead and wonder why they haven’t been standard practice for years. This was certainly my reaction while watching the first episode of Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds (1 August).

One of the tangential pleasures of opera-going is the insight it affords into how very, very bad nineteenth-century theatre must have been.

Julie Myerson once produced a book in which she attempted to track down everyone who had ever lived in her south London house. In the week-long series Door Stepping (31 July to 4 August), Jude Rogers had the equally bright, if slightly easier, idea of revisiting every home in which she herself had resided.

It seemed the God of Thunder was in town as an explosive timpani roar began both Proms at the weekend.

Here is an interesting question: does a Catholic upbringing produce more thoughtful conceptual art? Or is it because I am on the same wavelength that I think so?

Rights to life and death are regularly aired in court … Against such issues, the question of whether there is a human right to parenthood can seem self-indulgent and even minor – except, of course, to those who are unwillingly childless

The sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car crash in a Paris tunnel, and the ensuing public outpouring of emotion seem, in hindsight, to be so strange as to be almost surreal. This documentary (24 July), marked 20 years since Diana’s death, and brought many memories back.

Film-maker Terence Davies once told me how as a teenager – Catholic, in the closet, terrified – he saw Victim … About 20 minutes into the story a police detective lets slip the word “homosexual”. As Davies recalled of the audience, “you could have heard a pin drop”.

With a punning title, this feature on the plight of Anglican religious communities (21 July) was both irresistible and inaccurate.

Helen Edmundson’s title character, Anne Stuart (1665-1714), the daughter of James II, had a life unusually shaped by faith. As a young woman, her Protestant piety was much advertised in order to appease those who feared that her father’s monarchy was sliding back towards Rome: he framed, in 1687, an extended version of Charles II’s Declaration of Indulgence, which promoted tolerance towards Catholics and Dissenters.

The Beguiled, one of five movies made by director Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood, came out in 1971 … Sofia Coppola has transformed this material – a domestic horror movie – into something magical, part comedy of manners, part submerged fairytale.

A wild night opened the 123rd season of the Henry Wood Promenade Concerts – The Proms – with the host BBC Symphony Orchestra’s performance of the short, fresh, invigorating world premiere of St John’s Dance by 29-year-old British composer Tom Coult. The piece starts with a stutter in the strings then flings lightly at manic, constantly changing speeds and rhythms …

The “Soul of a Nation” exhibition, which opened last week at Tate Modern, offered Free Thinking (12 July) a welcome opportunity to explore some of the connections between black American art in the age of Eldridge Cleaver and Angela Davis and the UK’s very own late 1960s and 1970s Black Panther movement.

I Know Who You Are, a Spanish thriller set against the background of the legal and judicial system … is shaping up well … I don’t know much about how the Spanish legal system works but it still seems doubtful that a trial would go ahead when quite so many of the prosecution and defence lawyers, to say nothing of the defendant, were or had been sleeping with each other.

Tiny treasures

13 July 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
Show-stopping art in the palm of a hand

Generation game

13 July 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Passing on wisdom

Teenage talent scrutinised

Vanishing dialects

Better by the book

13 July 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
A disappointing adaption

Recent events have challenged the British tendency to regard the story of Ireland as intractable, impenetrable and best left to those who have to live through it.

Can the world be saved? And is opera a sensible place to work out how? Richard Wagner would say yes to both. 

Now in its fourteenth series, the many delights of Who Do You Think You Are? haven’t dimmed. A celebrity is taken back into the past by historians and genealogists to find out about their ancestors. There are always wild surprises …

Heaven scent: a survey of serious smells

06 July 2017 | by Suzi Feay

The “Born in Bradford” (BiB) project began as long ago as 2007, when the founding cohort of expectant mothers was piped on board by one of the city’s antenatal clinics. Ten years later, there was a feeling that much of West Yorkshire had been turned into a giant research lab …

The Imperial War Museum was founded in 1917 during the First World War; within a generation, the Second World War had broken out.

Time travel

29 June 2017 | by Mark Lawson
How past, present and future interlock

A dog's life

29 June 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Pooches on pedestal

Celebrating Dutch tolerance

Scents of the souk

29 June 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Through a blind man’s eyes

“We want to be experts in presence,” says founder of L’Arche Jean Vanier, halfway through Summer in the Forest. He is explaining the essential ethos of L’Arche’s 149 communities of people with learning disabilities in 37 countries: “We take time, and we waste time, to become who we are called to be.”

Bottom-drawer genius

22 June 2017 | by Mark Lawson
You would not think a dramatist could suffer for having written too many great plays. But because Arthur Miller left a quartet of masterpieces – The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, Death of a Salesman and All My Sons – there is little inclination to root around in the bottom of the drawer.

“Giovanni da Rimini: A 14th-Century Masterpiece Unveiled” (until 8 October) celebrates the donation to the gallery by Ronald S. Lauder that allowed it to acquire a devotional panel by the Riminese artist depicting Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and Other Saints, which makes its first appearance in this Room 1 exhibition

Love on the Heath

22 June 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
Diane Keaton plays Emily, left broke and boiling mad by her feckless late husband. One day, spying through her binoculars, she spots Donald (Brendan Gleeson), long-time resident of a sylvan shack nestled in the woods. She goes in search of him, they meet and they – well, I think you know what’s coming.

Raising the dead

22 June 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Hilary Mantel has always written engagingly about her family’s history. Remembering her childhood in the memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, she noted that the relatives who referred to her as “Our ’ilary” had “aspirations but no aspirates”. The starring family member in the first of this year’s Reith Lectures (13 June) was her maternal great-grandmother, Katherine O’Shea, a mill worker from County Waterford …

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