The last two Edinburgh Fringe festivals included numerous productions reflecting on Scottish and British politics before and after the independence referendum. But that poll, in September 2014, was perfectly timed for festival deadlines on either side.
After first chancing his arm with Michael Heseltine, Peter Hennessy (also a columnist for The Tablet) devoted the second instalment of his new series of Reflections to a sit-down with the former Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable (9 August).
In the nature/nurture debate thrumming under the sombre surface of The Childhood of a Leader – the portrait of a tyrant in waiting – first-time director Brady Corbet sits on an iron fence. You could blame the parents, but you might also discern in the story’s moppet dictator a streak of wanton nastiness that is purely his own.
Guitars and pedals Premium28 July 2016
Edinburgh International Festival 2016
Trivial pursuit Premium28 July 2016 | by John Morrish
Julian of Norwich’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography briefly ponders her somewhat unusual name, then notes: “no other information concerning her identity or origins has come to light”.
As might have been expected from its title, Emma Beck’s heartfelt documentary (22 July) was full of deeply arresting sound bites. “Somebody say something,” a bereaved mother remembered asking a room full of clinicians, each of whom stood staring at an ultrasound scan confirming that prenatal movement had ceased.
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.
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.
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 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.
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).
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.
Here’s looking at you, war Premium06 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.
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 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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