Redefining an enigma Premium

20 April 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse
Opera is a magpie, always stealing food from the neighbours. Plays from Shakespeare to Victor Hugo, poems, novels and stories, even a strip cartoon (for Leos Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen) have been grist to its mill.

Courting controversy Premium

20 April 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Although three of the main characters are barristers and a fourth is an actor playing a QC on TV, only two of the 15 scenes in Nina Raine’s new play take place at court. This is a legal drama about the way in which lawyers take their work home and their homes to work.

Still bringing us sunshine Premium

20 April 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
What bliss! A biopic of Morecambe and Wise in two episodes of an hour each (16 and 17 April). One would think there was little left to say about the lives and careers of mid-twentieth-century Britain’s most famous television comic duo, but these programmes demonstrate that the Eric and Ernie barrel is not fully scraped. Well, not quite.

Losing the plot Premium

20 April 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
About a third of the way into Park Chan-wook’s exquisite-looking period drama, The Handmaiden, I felt certain I was watching a masterpiece unfold. By the end of its two-and-a- half-hour span I realised (oh, alas!) it was anything but. The slide in quality and credibility really is that stark.

Peace offering Premium

20 April 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
This excellent two-part mock-documentary (14 and 16 April, available at or through the Premier Christian Radio website, purported to examine events that had taken place at Easter 2016 in West Trent.

Triumph of the spirit Premium

13 April 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse
Music, the most disembodied of the arts, knows the straightest way to the heart. A song can make you cry quicker than anything in the world: that is the secret of music’s dramatic power, even while it remains ungraspable.

Gangster’s Calvary Premium

13 April 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
Films about the Passion are, in ways literal and metaphorical, excruciating. Whether it’s the sanitised biblical epics of old Hollywood (The Greatest Story Ever Told), the brutal gorefest of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, or last year’s sincere but savourless Risen, cinema has struggled to make the Easter story live.

Grief is physical, a 360-degree experience. It consumes our senses, directs our body language contorts our expressions. Faces glisten with tears; mouths are flatlined; eyes heavy; cheeks pallid.

Bearing reality for humankind Premium

13 April 2017 | by Mark Lawson
As someone who grew up in Leeds, the idea of a Yorkshire-accented Jesus seemed entirely right and proper to me when I saw The Mysteries, Tony Harrison’s Yorkshire-dialect verse version of the medieval biblical playlets performed by crafts guilds from York, Wakefield, Chester and Coventry.

The number of major theatrical roles Simon Russell Beale has squeezed himself into over the past two decades would fill an exercise book.

Pilgrims at home and abroad Premium

13 April 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Easter TV this year kicks off with a fascinating documentary on Maundy Thursday (Bronx To Bradford: Friars On A Mission, BBC1, 10.45 p.m.) about the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, who were founded by eight Capuchin priest friars in New York in 1987.

Renaissance rivals Premium

06 April 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
Story of creative partnership turned sour

Red-hot rubbish Premium

06 April 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Waldemar Januszczak’s programme on St Mary Mag­dalene (6 April) asked itself this question: “Why are we so obsessed by her? Why does she ring our bell so loudly?”

Mourning Midweek Premium

06 April 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
End of an era on Radio 4

An entertaining shotgun marriage Premium

06 April 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Depending on how you look at it, the latest production of a work by the great English playwright Sir Terence Rattigan (1911-77), author of The Winslow Boy and The Deep Blue Sea, is a case of two old plays or one new script.

The importance of being Emily Premium

06 April 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
Tyrannical fathers and recalcitrant women are favourite archetypes in the work of Terence Davies.

Let slip the dogs of Waugh Premium

30 March 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Evelyn Waugh died 50 years ago around this time last year. But if the BBC’s new dramatic adaption of his first published novel, Decline and Fall, comes a bit late for the commemorations, it makes up for it in entertainment value.

Seventeen going on seventy Premium

30 March 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Finding, in theatre listings, one play about cross-generational relationships and another about the last day of school, you might think that such subject matter has already been over-done. So the question raised by two new productions is: to what extent can innovative staging reinvigorate familiar material?

True colours Premium

30 March 2017 | by Christopher Lamb
The treasures of Rome, I’ve discovered while living here, are often best enjoyed if you simply allow them to reveal themselves to you, rather than approaching them with a sightseer’s bucket list. So often in this city I’ve gone in search of a particular piece of art only to find myself dazzled by something else; I open one door, only to find another three waiting.

Superior wit Premium

30 March 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse
Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1881 operetta fits nicely with our idea of the librettist as old curmudgeon: a grumpy satire on willowy, long-haired young men mincing about London being intense and arty, and turning the heads of idiotic girls. Naturally, the “poets” in question turn out to be frauds of the first water, motivated by pure self-love.

Another whirl Premium

30 March 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Chairman of Norwich City FC, game adornment of Strictly Come Dancing, all-purpose media operator – Ed Balls’ transformation into a national treasure in the two years since he lost his parliamentary seat is one of the wonders of the age.

Monk at the cutting edge Premium

23 March 2017 | by Joanna Moorhead
The word “robot” was first used in 1920; but when Science Museum curator Ben Russell started to research the history of humanoid machines for the current blockbuster exhibition, he discovered something he was not expecting. The first creator of these objects, he found, was the Catholic Church. The year was around 1560; the place, a monastery – probably in Spain.

The text’s the thing Premium

23 March 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Imagine that, in the week after the European Union referendum, poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy had published verses in which the symbolic figure of Britannia reflected on the wildly different responses from different parts of her realm. Such a publication might have ranked among the great literary interventions in politics.

A mother’s love Premium

23 March 2017 | by Rick Jones
Under the title “Invocazioni Mariane” – “Tears of Mary” or “A Mother’s Tears” – the German countertenor Andreas Scholl presented a programme of Italian Baroque devotions to the Virgin at the Barbican recently.

Earlier this year, the death of Sr Frances Carr left only two remaining members of her Shaker religious community, which was established in Maine in 1783. The Shakers being bound to celibacy, renewal by numbers has been a challenge.

Down to a sunless sea Premium

23 March 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Built in the late 1990s, Manchester’s Intu Trafford Centre is an altogether baroque edifice, marble-domed, crammed with allegorical frescos, architectural stylings borrowed from sources as detached from each other as art deco and ancient Egypt and what was, at the time of its installation, the world’s largest chandelier.

A religion of things Premium

16 March 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
It seems a particular cruelty of fate that a country with such a rich cultural heritage as Italy should lie along not one, but two tectonic fault lines. When earthquakes strike, as they did across central Italy last year, the human tragedy is compounded by the loss to history.

Timely revivals Premium

16 March 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Plays sometimes make such an impact that even non-theatregoers will know the title. The 1960s threw up two – Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – new productions of which opened within 48 hours of each other last week.

Impressions of paradise Premium

16 March 2017
Newman’s poetic vision of death was the tumultuous conclusion to Manchester’s four-day Elgar Festival.

Domestic fault lines Premium

16 March 2017 | by Anthony Quinn
Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director, unfolds his intricate moral thrillers with the precision of a bomb disposal expert. The audience watches in fear of the plot going off in its face.

Putting theory into practice Premium

16 March 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
The first instalment of Michael Chaplin’s latest despatch from Ferryhill, County Durham (14 March) stirred welcome memories of Peter Flannery’s mid-1990s television saga Our Friends in the North.

Class act Premium

09 March 2017 | by Joanna Moorhead
Outsize Athena sits magical and mysterious, half-human, half-machine, bolts for her knees and sturdy, chiselled lines on her geometric face. She is a masterpiece by Eduardo Paolozzi, whose work has been assembled at the Whitechapel Gallery in London for a major retrospective (to 14 May).

Nordic noir in Elsinore Premium

09 March 2017 | by Mark Lawson
As the Shakespeare role that actors most want to play conveniently appears in the play that audiences are keenest to see, theatregoers are never far from a Hamlet: Andrew Scott’s attempt on the title role follows those by Benedict Cumberbatch and Paapa Essiedu.

Lenten landscapes Premium

09 March 2017 | by Laura Gascoigne
Over the past few years, the remote Welsh border church of St Michael’s, Discoed, has become an unlikely place of Lenten pilgrimage.

Winter of our discontent Premium

09 March 2017 | by Robert Thicknesse
Shakespeare and opera are uneasy bedfellows – a scant handful of successful adaptations from a zillion attempts, and the good ones (for example Verdi’s Macbeth) tend to stray pretty far from the originals.

Gospel musing Premium

09 March 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Writer Anouchka Grose’s contribution, under the title “Destiny and the Psyche”, to this year’s Lent Talks (8 March, series continues to 12 April), began with a brisk analysis of Muriel Spark’s The Comforters (1957).

Reformed prostitute, chief mourner – and bluestocking

Larger than life Premium

02 March 2017 | by Mark Lawson
Scripts based on unlikely real-life encounters have become a flourishing genre.

Chapter and verse Premium

02 March 2017 | by Rick Jones
The origins of oratorio are a fascinating episode in the history of music. They lie in St Philip Neri’s progressive, modernising reaction to the Reformation, his followers recognised as the order of the Congregazione dell’Oratorio by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575.

To arrange or not to arrange? Premium

02 March 2017 | by Lucy Lethbridge
Not that long ago most marriages in Europe were arrangements made between families rather than individuals. The expectation of a romance bespoke-tailored is recent. Neither approach gives any guarantee of lasting conjugal happiness, but in the congregation of Birmingham Mosque, marriage and family is where tradition and modernity collide.

Death in the forest Premium

02 March 2017 | by D.J. Taylor
Valerie Shepard and Steve Saint, Mike Lanchin’s guests in Witness (23 February) – part of a week’s worth of outings on Radio 4 for the World Service staple – shared a deeply un-enviable distinction.

Latest Issue
Digital/PDF Version

PDF version (iPad-friendly)

Previous Issues
Latest Tweet
Share Us
Tablet Subscription

Manage my subcription here


Sign up for our newsletter

Sign Up