Whether Villains or Martyrs They’re Lions’ Lunch

Michael Fabiano as Poliuto 
©Tristram Kenton

      Glyndebourne Festival’s opening is always an exciting date in the calendar. This year it featured the inauguration of a beautiful temporary gallery in collaboration with the progressive dealer, White Cube, and an exhibition of a series of paintings, each of four whirling legs, feet and high-heeled shoes attached, by Georg Baselitz. They are very decorative, even … [Read more...]

High Society no Longer Exists, but it’s Worth Making a Song and Dance about It

Kate Fleetwood

Kate Fleetwood (Old Vic) High Society Kevin Spacey leaves his post as artistic director of the Old Vic with one last wild and vibrant fling. He’s chosen as his final production the musical of the film of the play, High Society. As The Philadelphia Story, it was the original 1939 play and 1940 movie, both starring Katharine Hepburn; in 1956, and this version was one of Mr. Spacey’s early … [Read more...]

Mike Leigh’s Piratical Sense of Duty


  We know from Topsy-Turvy that Mike Leigh loves Gilbert and Sullivan, so he was the obvious choice to mount the production of The Pirates of Penzance or the Slave of Duty that the English National Opera is counting on to rescue its shaky finances. In his programme essay he makes a good case for seeing Gilbert as a surrealist and a subversive, but not a satirist --  meaning that the point … [Read more...]

And the Buffalo Roam

John Goodman (Don), Tom Sturridge (Bob) and Damian Lewis (Teach) in American Buffalo at Wyndham's Theatre. Photograph: Johan Persson

  John Goodman (Don), Tom Sturridge (Bob) and Damian Lewis (Teach) in American Buffalo at Wyndham's Theatre. Photograph by Johan Persson David Mamet has apparently reversed many of the political and social views he held when American Buffalo was first staged in 1975, and now supports free market economics and Hayek – which just shows, I suppose, that you can take the boy out of … [Read more...]

How Rupert Brooke’s War Ended 100 Years Ago

Rupert Brooke

    This week was the centenary of the death of Rupert Brooke (1887-1915), as well as of the failed Gallipoli campaign of the First World War. The illustrious war poet was a bogus posthumous hero, and in life a neurotic, guilt-ridden bisexual, and social climber; but he charmed everyone with his magnetic personality and electric presence. King’s College Cambridge marked the … [Read more...]

Together Dancing Cheek to Cheek

Carmen Disruption photograph by Marc Brenner

  Nobody seems to have noticed that the most important member of the production team in a pair of new plays on the London stage is the choreographer. Cheek by Jowl’s Measure for Measure and the Almeida’s Carmen Disruption by Simon Stephens (playwright of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) are both balletic, and both require those on the stage to move in precise, … [Read more...]

What is “The Hard Problem”?

Olivier Vinall (Hilary) photograph by Johan Persson

The Hard Problem, Sir Tom Stoppard’s first stage play since 2006, begins with what you have to call Stoppardian promise: a bit of dialogue that misleads the audience about its actual subject. We hear a 30-something man tell a 22-year-old woman”: “You’re looking at two years. The jewellery was under the floorboards. The police have nothing to connect you to the scene of the robbery.” But this … [Read more...]

We’re all wild about Harry: Paul Levy loves a Birtwistle masterpiece

Fiona Maddocks

    Sir Harrrison Birtwistle in conversation with Fiona Maddocks Like everyone who knows him, I sometimes call the composer, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, “Harry.” In truth, though, my acquaintance with him is slight – we first bonded in Mere, Wiltshire over a few bottles of serious red from the Northern Rhône, poured by our mutual chum, Robin Yapp, who had been Harry’s dentist before he … [Read more...]

Two cheers for Bollywood

Hiran Abeysekera (Sunil Sharma). Photo by Richard Hubert Smith

Though I have travelled in India often and extensively, I’ve not been since the economic liberalisation that has resulted in 71% of Indians having mobile phone subscriptions, as opposed to the 5% that had them ten years ago. This startling statistic comes from Sunil Khilnani’s programme essay for David Hare’s new National Theatre play, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” based on the book by … [Read more...]

Feminists have trouble keeping up with the Joneses

Allen Jones, Fascinating Rhythm, 1982-3

Fascinating Rhythm, 1982-3. Enamel on plywood. Allen Jones’s work is evidently too difficult for some people who call themselves “feminists” to understand. In 1986 a posse of deranged women (or a single loonie)  attacked his 1969 “Chair” with paint stripper or acid (Google-accessed accounts vary); and his work was pointedly excluded from Penelope Curtis’ 2011 Tate Britain survey of “Modern … [Read more...]