The editors' blog
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, December 18th 2014
A raucous, Sherlock Holmes-themed pantomime called "Mrs Hudson's Christmas Corker" might not sound like the most highbrow play that London has to offer. But if you sample enough of the mulled wine being served in the foyer beforehand, you begin to see it differently. Not just a knockabout collection of puns and pratfalls, the play incorporates so much of what is revered in contemporary theatre that it could be the centrepiece of any prestigious international arts festival. Just look at the checklist. It’s a site-specific, time-specific project, co-created by multi-cultural performers who each flit between multiple roles. It has an onstage band and animated back projections. It has self-reflexive commentary and audience participation. And it has a masculine literary source which is given a gynocentric makeover. Finally, it was developed in a hidden-away urban venue that is being rescued slowly from dilapidation. Beat that, National Theatre.
The venue is Wilton’s, a mid-19th-century music hall that was derelict for decades before reopening in the late 1990s. On the border between the City and Docklands, it has somehow escaped being demolished by Boris Johnson and replaced by a block of bankers’ flats, and its flaking grandeur is regularly employed in music videos and films, including Woody Allen’s “Cassandra’s Dream” and Guy Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”.read more »
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, December 17th 2014
For each issue of Intelligent Life, we ask a selection of contributors to record their pieces for our digital editions and website. Below you can listen to Rebecca Willis on what to buy a teenage girl that she will still love when she's a woman; Oliver Morton on a dinosaur who'd been in the wars; Simon Willis on the maths behind an Aston Martin; Nicholas Barber on the rise of the fan edit; Maggie Fergusson on her books of the year; and Robert Macfarlane on "Game of Thrones".read more »
~ Posted by Rahul Bhattacharya, December 12th 2014
Earlier this week, Roger Federer walked out into a large multipurpose indoor arena in east Delhi. He wore a dark tracksuit jacket and dark shorts, and filled the air with charisma. There are sportsmen and then there is Federer—no longer in the majesty of his full bloom, but enjoying a lovely late flush. I want to say he received a rousing ovation, but that would not quite convey it: it was the kind of cheering that Indians used to reserve for Sachin Tendulkar.read more »
~ Posted by Isabel Lloyd, December 12th 2014
In 2012 a young British chef called Oliver Dabbous opened his first, eponymous restaurant on an unremarkable corner in the West End of London. Within months it was the hottest ticket in town, with a waiting list as long as the restaurant was small. The dish at the eye of the Dabbous storm was his version of coddled egg, which he cooked with cream, smoked butter and mushrooms, and served in a nest of hay. I was lucky enough to try it, and it was an entirely memorable experience: “like,” I said in this piece for Intelligent Life, “being punched by fungi while sitting next to a smoky fire.”read more »
~ Posted by Maggie Fergusson, December 11th 2014
The literary calendar is now so crammed with prizes it’s hard to keep abreast of winners, let alone judges. But today’s announcement of the panel for the 2015 Man Booker prize is cause for celebration. The column inches will go to the appointment of the chancellor’s wife, Frances Osborne. But the stroke of genius is the inclusion of John Burnside.
Have you heard of Burnside? Have you read a single one of his books? If the answer is no, and no, you’re in the majority. Should you have heard of him? Should you read him? Well, yes, and emphatically yes.read more »
~ Posted by Laura Parker, December 8th 2014
One of the highlights so far of HBO's "Game of Thrones" came at the end of the second season: a climactic, episode-long battle known as Blackwater. Two armies clashed shields and swords over the Iron Throne, that highly desirable, highly elusive symbol of power at the centre of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy world. The two sides brawled at sea and on land. Archers atop the city gates sent showers of arrows into the mayhem below, where warriors lunged, jabbed and skewered each other with swords, spears and spite. In the realm of the Seven Kingdoms, war is the major currency.read more »
~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, December 5th 2014
When you visit the new Guy Bourdin exhibition at Somerset House in London, the thing that strikes you is all the legs. In 1979 Bourdin was commissioned by Charles Jourdan to shoot its footwear ad campaign. He bought a pair of mannequin legs, threw them into the back of a Cadillac and drove around Britain, photographing the legs—adorned with their glamorous shoes—against quintessential English backdrops: crossing a cobbled lane, waiting for a train, striding past stucco-fronted houses (picture 3, above). The images have a mysterious quality. What does the woman look like? What is she thinking? Where is she? Bourdin redefined fashion photography by prizing the image over the product. These aren't just adverts, they're works of art.read more »
~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, December 5th 2014
It’s been an exciting week for devotees of lightsabers, stormtroopers and the Millennium Falcon. Not only is this the first time in nine years that a new “Star Wars” trailer has been released, it’s also the first time that such a release has been followed, within hours, by a host of unofficial parodies and homages.read more »
~ Posted by Deborah Stoll, December 3rd 2014
The common image of Haitian art is one of primitive, block-coloured paintings and voodoo-like sculptures. But the works in “Haiti”, a new show at the Grand Palais in Paris, go far beyond these archetypes. And it’s about time. The Centre d’Art, Haiti’s first official art school opened in 1944 by the American watercolourist Dewitt Peter, brought some recognition to the country's art scene. But there is much more to learn.
The exhibition showcases 60 artists from the last two centuries—since Haiti gained independence from France in 1804—and politics is in the air. There are caricatures of presidents, shantytowns overflowing with inhabitants, animal carcasses and ghostly barbed wire. Unrest emanates from the paintings, a sense that nothing is static, that the world is ephemeral. It all feels perennially contemporary, whether a 1961 crayon drawing of a grotesque “tadpole man” by Robert Saint-Brice, or a 2013 acrylic and tar work called "Attaque" by Sébastien Jean (above). Arranged thematically—“Untitled”, “Spirits”, “Landscapes”, “Chiefs”—instead of chronologically, the viewer can see the art as storytelling without the pedagogy of “that was then, this is now”.read more »
~ Posted by Tim de Lisle, December 3rd 2014
There are some things you can do just as well when you’re dead. One of them is earning, if your work outlives you; another is appearing on the cover of a magazine. We’ve had Grace Kelly and Elvis Presley on the cover, and now we have George Orwell. When the subject is no longer there to be photographed, it’s all about the shot you choose. With Grace, the picture in The Line of Beauty was so elegantly wistful that it demanded to go on the cover. With Elvis, our art director Graham Black went through hundreds of photos to find something soulful. The shot of Orwell, from a shallower pool, does a different job, displaying the steely eye of the visionary.read more »