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.

Sent from Coventry Premium

19 May 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
“Naked women and pictures of Jesus” is how the teenage George Shaw once summed up the contents of the National Gallery. Little did he dream of growing up to become the gallery’s Associate Artist, awarded a two-year residency on site to prepare an exhibition inspired by the collection.

Citrus squeeze Premium

19 May 2016 | by Brian Morton
Lemonade isn’t fizzy. It isn’t sweet. And it isn’t champagne. In contrast to perhaps her most famous song so far, this one is maybe about taking a ring off rather than putting one on. You don’t have to read between the lines. You just have to read the lines. All is not well in the most powerful entertainment business marriage.

Singing for Europe Premium

19 May 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
One might reasonably have expected the talking heads in this sparkling overview of the Eurovision Song Contest to be pop moguls, songwriters and musicians.

Lines in the sand Premium

19 May 2016 | by Mark Lawson
As well as being a soldier and spy, T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) was a literary figure – his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, long shaping European views of Arab culture – who rapidly became a dramatic character.

Accidental damage Premium

19 May 2016 | by John Morrish
Louis Theroux has made a remarkable transition from satirist of minor celebrities to sympathetic listener to people leading difficult lives. His methods, though, have hardly changed: in sometimes meandering programmes, he ingratiates himself into people’s domestic settings, lets them talk, and then asks pointed questions that sometimes stay just this side of impertinent.

Hymns from the terraces Premium

12 May 2016 | by Brian Morton
David Beckham recently referred to Wembley as a “sacred” place. The former England football captain’s heart is in the right place, even if it is not the same place as his vocabulary, but everyone knew what he meant.

The shadow of the Marchmains Premium

12 May 2016 | by Mark Lawson
After The recent success of theatre and TV versions of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell novels, it is proven that the same book can thrive equally well on stage and screen. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, though, appeared almost simultaneously in the two media. Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited is a different proposition.

Bitter pills Premium

12 May 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The second instalment of the second of Dominic Lawson’s provocative series (4 May) featured some unusually strong language. Nothing obscene, mind, but the words “liar” and “deluded” clanged in the ether like church bells.

Italy’s melting pot Premium

12 May 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
Touring the ruins of Selinunte in the 1970s, my sister and I were picked up by a young Sicilian. Al Pacino in The Godfather he was not: he had red hair, freckles and the sun-blistered skin of a fisherman.

Comedy without errors Premium

12 May 2016 | by John Morrish
William Shakespeare, his father, mother, wife and daughter are sitting in his kitchen. Anne Hathaway gives the playwright some advice. “Don’t do comedy. It’s not your strong point.” Will is affronted. “It is my strong point, wife. It just needs lengthy explanation and copious footnotes. If you do your research, my stuff is really funny.”

Why write new church music? The question is as absurd as asking, why write new love songs? Composers create church music in response to the experience of faith; and faith is different in every age.

Life, death and being Irish Premium

05 May 2016 | by Mark Lawson
An East Belfast loyalist, shown his baby granddaughter for the first time, is horrified to see the face of Gerry Adams looking back at him. A depressed young man, seeing no option but to end his life, finds access to his suicide auctioned to the highest bidders.

Dead end Premium

05 May 2016 | by John Morrish
Another week, another BBC Four history/travel series. The Silk Road (1 May) had all the raw ingredients of the genre – beautiful photography, quaint locals, a presentable presenter – without­­ turning them into anything nutritious.

Let there be light Premium

05 May 2016 | by Joanna Moorhead
First things first: the lift. Up you go, at the Ikon Gallery, to the sound of a heavenly choir; what a smart idea is this. The piece you are listening to is an installation by Martin Creed, the Quaker artist who won the Turner Prize in 2001; the piece, Work 409, involves the recorded choral voices, which rise as the lift ascends and descend as it falls.

Staying normal Premium

05 May 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Jack Monroe started writing – I was going to say “her” but as a non-binary transgender she prefers the pronoun “their” – austerity recipe blog in 2012. The goad was a complaint by a Southend councillor that drunks, drug addicts and single mothers were depressing the town’s retail trade.

Poor old Richard Wagner! You spend a third of your life constructing The Ring of the Nibelung – surely the biggest one-man artwork in history – and a mere 150 years later most even of the culturally literate have only a dim (and probably contemptuous) awareness of it as some peculiar, possibly proto-Nazi manifesto stuffed with elves, dragons and gigantic blondes in horned helmets. Oh, and the “Ride of the Valkyries”.

Chilling affair Premium

28 April 2016 | by John Morrish
A writer of fiction has to strive for plausibility. Tell a true story, though, and the most incredible things become possible.

Space odyssey Premium

28 April 2016 | by Mark Lawson
Most dramatic genres – domestic drama, thriller, romance, song and dance, historical – exist equally on stage and screen.

One act of mercy Premium

28 April 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
It is the thing you have half-imagined, could scarcely believe, possibly had nightmares about. Son of Saul brings us close – as close as cinema will ever get – to the dragon’s mouth of the Holocaust.

Around the world in 90 years Premium

28 April 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
The BBC’s celebration of the Queen’s ninetieth birthday was wonderfully site-appropriate. While BBC1 – among much else – offered Nicholas Witchell’s matey encounter with Prince William, the World Service weighed in with Sir David Cannadine’s sober analysis of Her Majesty’s role as an international stateswoman (20 April).

Shock tactics in textiles Premium

21 April 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
At evensong on 20 September 1966, sharp-eyed worshippers at Chichester Cathedral noticed that one of the canons was wearing dark glasses. Charitable observers might have attributed this to conjunctivitis, had it not been for a glaringly obvious explanation.

Understanding why Premium

21 April 2016 | by Mark Lawson
It is an urgent mystery of our time: why European teenagers, loved at home and accomplished at school, are travelling to Syria to join Islamic State, the men likely to die in war, the women to be raped in forced marriage.

Early apocalypse Premium

21 April 2016 | by Rick Jones
Sir Simon Rattle is becoming a familiar figure about town, even though he has not officially started yet as music director of the London Symphony Orchestra.

Picasso’s weeping woman Premium

21 April 2016 | by John Morrish
Anyone planning a series on the tricky love lives of artists will never be short of material. And so it proves with a new 10-parter, Artists In Love (beginning 18 April).

Scoop revisited Premium

21 April 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Rebroadcast to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s death on Easter Sunday 1966, this television interview from June 1960 began with an archive clip of the host, John Freeman, recalling his trepidation at having to deal with such a legendarily irascible figure.

Elgar on the home front Premium

14 April 2016 | by Rick Jones
One hundred years ago this month, an event took place in central London that was effectively the Live Aid of its day. It was April 1916, and Britain was in the throes of the First World War. Death, danger and destruction were all around; the nation’s young men were falling like flies in the battles that were raging in trenches in foreign fields.

A ripe pair Premium

14 April 2016 | by Mark Lawson
In the cast of the first non-London production of Harold Pinter’s second play The Birthday Party was a young Scarborough actor called Alan Ayckbourn. And, although Pinter’s career is completed while Ayckbourn’s continues, the two men remain linked as the English dramatists whose works from the 1960s and 1970s are most regularly produced. A lavish revival from each backlist coincidentally opened last week.

Titanic troubles Premium

14 April 2016 | by Anthony Quinn
Mark Cousins’ cine-memoir opens with a lightning storm; a fitting overture to the violent convulsions that have shaken his native city to the verge of despair.

Continental journey Premium

14 April 2016 | by John Morrish
At the start of Europe: Them or Us (12 April) Nick Robinson stood on the white cliffs of Dover and reminded us that we are separated from the continent by geography and history. It was a pity to start with a pair of clichés, verbal and visual, but he recovered to produce a thorough and interesting programme.

Making music not war Premium

07 April 2016 | by Rick Jones
The 100th anniversary of the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising has been much marked in the media over the past few days and weeks. But according to John Gilhooly, the Limerick-born director of London’s Wigmore Hall, the real focus of the centenary should not be war and violence, it should be reconciliation, mutual friendship and a shared cultural heritage.

Jaunty Giovanni Premium

07 April 2016 | by Robert Thicknesse
As everyone knows, the naughty hero of Mozart’s greatest opera gets dragged to hell at the end – but why, exactly? Clue: it is probably not just because he is such an unsupportive boyfriend, and patronising towards the plebs.

Away with the fairies Premium

07 April 2016 | by John Morrish
In a nod to the centenary of the Easter Rising, BBC 4 broadcast a celebration of W.B. Yeats, who wrote about that event with a profound ambivalence. Bob Geldof on W.B. Yeats: A Fanatic Heart was thorough, informative and respectful – and passionate.

Young, gifted, black – and back Premium

07 April 2016 | by Mark Lawson
The American dramatist Lorraine Hansberry (1930-65) is known only for A Raisin in the Sun, her 1957 African-American domestic drama that has just completed a British tour by the Eclipse Theatre Company. That play – and the song “To Be Young, Gifted and Black”, written as a musical eulogy by Nina Simone, a friend and admirer – seemed likely to be her cultural legacy.

Living with death Premium

07 April 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Radio 1 presenter Clara Amfo, the effervescent impresario of that station’s “rockest record” and its celebrated “Live Lounge” feature, was leaving the Metro on her way to take part in last March’s Paris half-marathon when her mobile phone rang.

Heaven knows the meaning Premium

31 March 2016 | by Laura Gascoigne
In the middle of the Louvre’s Mona Lisa room, an endless queue of tourists snakes around a maze of control barriers for a moment’s audience with the world’s most famous painting. What is it about the Mona Lisa that exerts this magnetism? The answer lies in the subject’s mystique.

An Easter rousing Premium

31 March 2016 | by Joanna Moorhead
It wasn’t conceived as a paschal ballad, but somehow it felt completely right to be belting out “High Hopes” on Easter Sunday evening with Kodaline. The song is all about redemption, and beginning again, and fresh starts; and there was a distinctly hymn-like quality to its rousing rendition in the cathedral of Hammersmith Apollo.

Watching the detective Premium

31 March 2016 | by John Morrish
There has surely been no writer more prolific than Georges Simenon. In a career lasting more than 60 years, he produced hundreds of novels and stories. But his best-known works are the “Maigret” books, a regular subject of television adaptation.

Endless questions Premium

31 March 2016 | by D.J. Taylor
Julian Barnes’ novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters contains a section set in a hedonist’s heaven. The inhabitants, who can do what they like with a stream of willing celebrity participants, are very soon bored to distraction.

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