The editors' blog


    ~ Posted by Julie Kavanagh, October 8th 2014

    This autumn the Royal Ballet will present a mixed bill of four masterpieces by Frederick Ashton, the company's founding choreographer and the creator of what's become known as "the English style". On Monday, at the Olympic cinema in London, there was a special screening of films to celebrate his choreography. In the audience were veteran stars of British ballet—Sir Anthony Dowell, Deanne Bergsma, Anya Linden (Lady Sainsbury) and Doreen Wells (Lady Londonderry)—as well as current soloists at the Royal Ballet and students from the Royal Ballet School. The idea behind the film programme, called "In Step with Fred" (a play on "The Fred Step", the talismanic short sequence of movements that appears in every Ashton ballet), was to remind people how the choreography was performed in his lifetime. Although the Ashton repertory is faithfully preserved these days, many of the defining characteristics of his style have become blurred.

    read more » BalletDanceFilmJulie Kavanagh

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, October 6th 2014

    Hilary Mantel and Harriet Walter have both inhabited the minds of men in their professional lives—Mantel when writing as Thomas Cromwell in "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies" and Walter on stage as Brutus in "Julius Caesar". But in this video, from a talk hosted by Intelligent Life, both women agree that there is a lack of imagination about what female leadership might be, and that there needs to be a model for women in public life that doesn't just replicate the male one.

    read more » fictionLondonLucy FarmertalksTheatreVideo

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, October 6th 2014

    If you're planning to visit this year's Turner prize exhibition, you'll be glad there are plenty of padded seats. Like the two previous winners, Laure Prouvost and Elizabeth Price, three of the four artists have been nominated for audio-visual works. They're challenging pieces, but at least you get to sit down while watching them.

    The show at Tate Britain in London opens with a vast television showing James Richards' "Rosebud" (detail above). It's a 12-minute black-and-white collage of old blurry VHS recordings and new digital vignettes, set to audio that morphs between instrumental melodies, repetitive mechanical noises and industrial sounds—and it's the best of the lot. The images are disparate, but they share an intriguing eroticism and tactility. All filmed in close-up, there are photos of bodies with their genitals scratched out; flashing images of a budgerigar flapping on a person's hand; elderflowers rolling softly over someone's lips; entwined arms turning over on a floor; ripples easing across a pond. Richards' fluid edit has a sensuous pace, too. He has said that the film plays on "the act of looking", which is the kind of gauzy thing artists say. But by limiting what you can see he urges you to search and stare, and turns a passive experience into something visceral.

    read more » ArtcultureLucy Farmer

    ~ Posted by Irving Wardle, October 3rd 2014

    It is common for television watchers in their sunset years to shed a tear for TV's supposed golden age, particularly when it comes to drama. It is our habit to rubbish the endless conveyor belt of hospital and crime series in favour of venerated one-off greats like Jeremy Sandford's "Cathy Come Home" (1966) and Peter Watkins' "The War Game" (1965). The first was about homelessness and the second about the aftermath of a nuclear strike—that much we remember. But further than that, memory tends to dissolve into a warm glow of approval rather than retaining the details of what really happened, such as the BBC's decision to suppress "The War Game" for fear of spreading public alarm. It was only transmitted a safe 20 years later.

    read more » Irving WardleTELEVISIONTHE SIXTIES

    ~ Posted by Nicholas Barber, September 30th 2014

    The best and worst thing about David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” is how funny it is. That’s not to say that Gillian Flynn’s source novel doesn’t have some laughs, but what separates it from the average crime bestseller is its ruthless dissection of a dysfunctional contemporary romance. Alternating between the testimonies of a thirtysomething husband and wife—Nick and Amy—the novel charts every stage of their courtship and marriage. We read about the initial elation, the high expectations, the differing priorities, the money worries, the family pressures, and so on, all of them set against a finely drawn backdrop of New York hipsterism and post-recession Midwestern decay. Even without the mystery of Amy’s disappearance, and the question of what her apparent murder has to do with Nick, “Gone Girl” would be a defining novel of today’s American middle class. It would also be an addictive page-turner, because the reader keeps learning a little more about why Amy and Nick loved each other, and how that love went sour.

    read more » FilmmoviesNicholas Barber

    ~ Posted by Samantha Weinberg, September 29th 2014

    August 1978. We were on a family holiday in Corfu and, seeking refuge from the sun, I wandered into the former olive press that served as the villa's sitting room. I took a book off the shelf and started reading: "Miss Jane Marple was sitting by her window." That was the first sentence of my first Agatha Christie, "The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side", and I don't think I left the room until the sun had long set and I'd discovered the identity of the murderer—which came, as they should do, as a complete surprise.

    read more » BooksBritainfictionrereadingSamantha Weinberg

    ~ Posted by Melanie Grant, September 26th 2014

    Goldsmiths’ Hall is an imposing Hanoverian-style mansion in St Paul's in London, all sandy stone and stately flags flapping in the breeze. It is the third building on the same site to house the Goldsmiths’ Company, set up 700 years ago as a guild for British goldsmiths and silversmiths. It also hosts the annual Goldsmiths’ Fair where, for two intense weeks in September and October, 170 jewellers stop being craftspeople and become salespeople instead, leaving the safety of their workshops to cajole and entice potential buyers. 

    read more » fairtradejewelleryLondonMelanie Grantstyle

    ~ Posted by Lucy Farmer, September 25th 2014

    In stories, as in life, what is not talked about is as important as what is. People keep secrets to protect others, but the burden works away insidiously. In this video, shot earlier this month at an event hosted by Intelligent Life, Hilary Mantel and Harriet Walter talk with the playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker about dealing with secrets and confronting areas of darkness.

    read more » BookscultureLucy FarmertalksVideo

    ~ Posted by Charlie McCann, September 24th 2014From heaving club beats to the loose-change jingle of the walk home, Jon Hopkins' album "Immunity" evokes the arc of a night out. Last Friday it was the night out. Hopkins was playing at the Royal Festival Hall, the classical-music venue at the Southbank Centre in London that's hosting crossover acts, including a symphony by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' guitarist Nick Zinner and a forthcoming collaboration between the maudlin singer-songwriter John Grant and the Royal Northern Sinfonia. Hopkins fits the mould. He's a classically trained pianist who spends as much time hovering over his decks as sitting poised at a concert grand. "Immunity", nominated for the Mercury prize last year, is both euphoric and melancholic, and shifts between throbbing techno and crystalline piano melodies. For the audience on Friday, it was a curious experience. One minute we were leaping out of our seats like jack-in-the-boxes, dancing joyously; the next, tucking ourselves back in.

    read more » Charlie McCannMusicRock

    ~ Posted by Simon Willis, September 23rd 2014Ted Hughes didn't just write a lot of poems about animals—about pikes and jaguars and thought-foxes. He thought of poems as animals.

    read more » BooksLiteraturePoetrySimon Willistalks