The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, September 19th 2014A momentous decision was reached yesterday. The Southbank Centre in London agreed to withdraw its proposal to redevelop the undercroft, the skateboarding mecca that cracks with the sound of wood slamming against concrete, day-in, day-out.

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    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, September 19th 2014

    read more » cultureLiteratureSimon WillistalksTheatreVideo

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, September 18th 2014If I worked in marketing, I'd probably describe "Constable: The Making of a Master" at the V&A as a repositioning exercise.

    read more » ArtcultureExhibitionspaintingRebecca Willis

    ~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, September 18th 2014

    It is almost unheard-of for the same writer to have a byline on the lead item in rival newspapers. But it has happened in Britain today—to a man who last picked up his pen in 1796.

    read more » JournalismPoetryPOLITICSScotlandTim de Lisle

    ~ Posted by Rebecca Willis, September 16th 2014

    When I stepped into the Victoria and Albert museum in London this week, on my way to see the Horst exhibition, I came across a man dusting a Rodin sculpture of a naked woman. How fitting. Posterity has shown that it is almost impossible to talk about Horst P. Horst's photography without using the word "sculptural". The erstwhile art director of French Vogue, where Horst made his name shooting fashion in the 1930s, said that his pictures gave the impression that, if you were able to walk around them, the models would look equally good from all sides, like a sculpture. Carmen Dell'Orifice, who first modelled for him in 1946 aged 15, later said: "Horst understood how light falls on an object. He saw me as a living sculpture to be projected through his photographs."

    read more » ExhibitionsFASHIONLondonPhotographyRebecca Willis

    ~ Posted by Anthony Gardner, September 15th 2014

    With its soaring neo-Gothic arches, eavesdroppers’ balconies and conspiratorial corners, the Union Chapel in Islington could easily be a stage set for a palace intrigue, which made it the ideal venue for a discussion between Hilary Mantel, the author of “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies”, and the actress Harriet Walter. The title of their talk, co-hosted by Intelligent Life and the Royal Society of Literature on Thursday evening, was “The Lives of Others”, but the discussion also encompassed the alternative lives each might have led. And though they explored the mental process of inhabiting a character, they revealed it is often a physical process, too.

    Hilary Mantel gave a riveting account of starting “Wolf Hall”. Undecided about which viewpoint to take, she had heard the opening words—“So now get up”—not just in, but above her head; she formed a picture of a boot seen sideways on, and felt cobblestones under her cheek. “In a simple twist of being,” she explained, “I was in Thomas Cromwell’s body—and then all the decisions about the novel had been made.”

    Harriet Walter spoke of being dependent on playwrights’ research and imagination: “I have to go back down the passage they came forward from, to meet them halfway.” She does this primarily through the music and rhythm of their language, but even as a child she registered the physical expression of character: “I could infer what people were thinking from the way they walked. It was as if my body could disintegrate and reconstitute itself as them.” For her, taking a new role is like setting up home with a second husband: “You become a different version of yourself.”

    read more » Anthony GardnerBooksLondonMan Booker PrizetalksTheatre

    ~ Posted by Tom Shone, September 12th 2014

    So there they were, on stage together for the first time in 31 years, Steve Reich (right) and Philip Glass (left), the Lennon and McCartney of minimalism—Glass slouching behind his keyboard at one end of the stage, Reich behind his. Glass probably was sitting erect, but everything about the man, from his mad professor hair to his billowing corduroy pants, aspires to the status of a puddle. Reich, wearing a baseball cap, sat almost immobile but for his hands. They played one of Reich’s pieces first, “Four Organs”, in which a percussionist lays down a steady heartbeat on maracas, while four organists take repeated stabs at a single chord, adding a 7th or an 11th, coming in a beat earlier, teasing it long, deconstructing and reconstructing it—like a piece of music remembering itself. “Four Organs” nearly caused a riot when it was first heard at Carnegie Hall in 1970. Finally, a flurry of movement from Reich, like a cat bundling itself up to pounce, and the piece ends. The applause is rapturous.

    read more » CLASSICAL MUSICNew YorkTom Shone

    ~ Posted by Anthony Gardner, September 11th 2014

    For the past three years, residents of Kensal Rise in north-west London have been campaigning to save their beloved library, which Brent Council had closed and stripped despite intense local opposition. A compromise seems finally to have been reached—part of the building will survive as an independent library, run by volunteers, while a developer will turn the rest into flats. Last Sunday night some 250 people filled the nearby St Martin’s Church for a fundraising celebration, and to commemorate the man who opened the library in 1900: Mark Twain.

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    ~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, September 10th 2014

    Pinning down Ali Smith’s genius is like trying to pocket moonbeams. No sooner have you found an adjective that seems to nail it, you realise the opposite is also true. Her writing is playful yet profound, modest but effervescent, wise but never jaded, satirical yet generous (generous in particular). “How to be Both” is the most uplifting book I’ve read this year. When I heard it had made the Man Booker prize shortlist, I shouted with delight.

    read more » BooksMaggie FergussonMan Booker Prize

    ~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, September 9th 2014

    Alecky Blythe’s “Little Revolution” at the Almeida in London last week never quite caught fire, unlike the post-Duggan riots in Hackney that it took as its subject matter. Verbatim theatre, the process Blythe favours, asks actors to mimic, as closely as possible, the recorded words of real people piped to them via an earpiece. For an audience, so much of live theatre’s magic lies in an unspoken deal with the actors: we respond with a wave of emotion, they surf it. But this style straitjackets the cast into following the exact rhythms and timings of the original dialogue, so they can’t respond to our reactions—with a longer pause, say, or extra emphasis—but have to plough straight on.

    The comedian Ronni Ancona played a Pembury estate mother with a wayward son and a nice line in put-downs. “Can you imagine?” she said to me afterwards. “Someone who came up through the clubs, not being able to play the laugh?”

    read more » Isabel LloydLondonTheatre