Open Minds about Closed Borders

Very recently the UK Border Agency refused visas to visit Britain to one of the curators of the Shubbak festival, an annual celebration in London of modern Arab arts. Also vetoed were visas for two authors from Gaza. Earlier this year, said Boyd Tonkin of The Independent (on 29 June), "a deal-hungry literary agent from Turkey, guest of honour at the London Book Fair" was denied entry to … [Read more...]

Dazzled by “Gloriana”

Have you ever been assaulted by the stage lighting of a production? In the sixty-plus years since I saw my first play and opera (Carmen at the Cincinnati Zoo!), this is the first time I have felt physically threatened by a lighting designer, Mimi Jordan Sherin, who has lit Richard Jones's otherwise imaginative, rewarding revival of Benjamin Britten's Gloriana, at the Royal Opera House, Covent … [Read more...]

Better than Bayreuth?

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The last "Ring" I saw was last autumn's revival of the Keith Warner production at Covent Garden. As in 2005/6 I had intended to write a book about seeing every Ring cycle produced in a single year, I not only saw the Bayreuth Ring in summer, 2006, but the earlier Manaus and Adelaide Rings. I've seen at least three different Bayreuth productions (each more than once) over the years, and have … [Read more...]

A Day in Valhalla

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In a former henhouse, at Longborough, deep in the Cotswold countryside, a very ambitious Ring cycle is shaping up. What, I asked myself, would its bombastic, luxury-loving author and composer make of it?             How would Wagner, who ordered his undergarments from a maker of bespoke women's lingerie, feel about designer Kjell Torriset's simple, effective, but hardly elegant costumes - … [Read more...]

Longborough’s golden D.I.Y. “Ring”

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It's a far cry from the Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney Hollywood movie where the two kids say "Let's put on a show," but the start of the 2013 Ring Cycle just outside the Cotswold village of Longborough has the same defiant D.I.Y. attitude. Martin and Lizzie Graham have been thinking about Wagner's operas for 30 years, and in 1998 they mounted - in a converted hen-house on their farm - their … [Read more...]

London theatre: Are the cuts bleeding?

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Though you'd never know it from the freezing weather, the  London theatre is embarking upon its spring season. I haven't yet seen the most promising flower,<em> The Book of Mormon</em>, because I didn't go to the press night, and the lead actor got laryngitis the night I was scheduled, so the management politely asked me to come another time, rather than see the understudy's first … [Read more...]

Is there a Foodie Backlash?

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Food culture is our culture. This Saturday's national papers here in Britain are stuffed full of food - Nigella's on the cover of one of the magazines, recipe supplements tumbled out of a couple of others, and god (or Bacchus) alone knows what Sunday's papers will bring. There was news from America this week that the lawyers who sued and won millions in damages against Big Tobacco ten years ago … [Read more...]

Jim Fixed It – Celebrity Culture Rules

The current scandal in Britain is about how a dead paedophiliac appears to have been protected and event abetted in his crimes by his employer. The trouble is that the employer in question was the second most revered institution (after the monarchy) in the country, the BBC. The nature of the complaint against the BBC is not clear, except that it failed to follow up and transmit "Newsnight's" … [Read more...]

Confessions of a soap addict

I am an EastEnders addict. Anybody reading this who doesn't have access to BBC television will probably be at a loss to understand this reference to the long-running TV soap opera, which takes place in "Albert Square," a fictional postal address in London's East End. I, like millions of other middle-class Brits (though I'm only half Brit, and that by dint of passport only, not birth), go slumming … [Read more...]

Tempest a wonderful shipwreck production

The Tempest is a play for which it is possible to feel real affection. In this it is, of course, unlike the tragedies: you can't imagine having warm, happy, cheerful or loving feelings about Macbeth, Hamlet or Othello. (There was a famous American Yiddish theatre production of King Lear - the moral of it being, "You bring them up, feed them, clothe them; then look what they do to you in your old … [Read more...]