Mary Poppins sniffs as if at a slightly improper suggestion when Mrs Banks brings up the subject of references. “I make it a rule never to give references,” she declares airily to the mother of Jane and Michael Banks in the stage musical, now in previews at London’s Prince Edward Theatre. “A very old-fashioned idea to my mind,” she adds, with a faint hint of Lady Bracknell. “The best people never require them.” She’s not being rude, exactly, but her tone leaves little doubt about who is interviewing whom in this encounter.This suggestion of inscrutability – of the stern, slightly droll briskness with which she refuses to explain herself to anybody – is a characteristic which literature’s predominant diva of the nursery shares with her creator, PL Travers, who first wrote about her in a book published in 1934. It’s not that Mary Poppins needs to fear adverse testimonials from previous employers. It’s more that a testimonial might well expose those glaring, imponderable gaps in her back story. How would you get your bearings on a figure who seems to have blown in on the east wind, “to have existed as long as recorded time and to be friendly with the powers of the universe”? That’s how she’s described by Richard Eyre, director of the stage-musical version.
Two planks are lowered on to the stage at the start of Mike Bartlett’s disgracefully funny adaptation of Vassa. They descend in deadpan sequence. One reads, “This play is set before a revolution.” The other, after a mock-solemn fade, “Capitalism is showing its age.”Not the revolution, note. Experience suggests that revolutions are inclined to devour their young. Written after the failure of the 1905 Russian revolution, when the Imperial Guard fired on a peaceful demonstration, causing many fatalities, Maxim Gorky’s 1910 play is a savage reminder that capitalism too is no slouch at tearing itself apart greedily. It is this gleefully baleful early version – published but never performed at the time – that Bartlett has adapted, and not Gorky’s 1936 revision.
The Pre-Raphaelites get a bad rap. There is a deep-rooted (and incorrect) belief that the movement was dominated by bawdy, arrogant young men with a penchant for depicting women as victims. What’s more, in recent years, the concept of the muse has been steered towards something more negative; a title reserved for women that can often imply a certain passivity. A new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London aims to challenge this view, by celebrating the oft-omitted women of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, whether artists, poets, wives, models or, indeed, muses. Here, the curators view the muse as a catalyst whose personality shines through the art and challenges our interpretation of familiar narratives.The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, formed in 1848, was a trio of rebellious young men – William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais – who had become disillusioned with what they perceived as a lack of natural beauty in art. They wanted to paint from life, and so enlisted a number of women – dressmakers, servants, sisters, mistresses – to model for them. They placed them in famous settings from literature or legend, and by so doing found a way to explore the most pressing social anxieties of the time: sex, death and disease. Not only did these women’s influence have an immeasurable influence on the Brotherhood’s output, but they produced their own work too – poetry, paintings and sketches – that is just as worthy of study as their male peers.
IT WAS good to see old Jarvis Cocker stick his head above the parapet again this week, choosing to expand on his theory of cocaine socialism at the NME Premier Awards on Tuesday night. First formulated in a track of the same name for his latest album, This Is Hardcore, his argument is that champagne socialism has been superseded under New Labour by something far more pernicious. Cocaine socialism, then, is the politics of selfishness, and it is thus named after the overwhelming do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do self- absorption that is one of the most noticeable behavioural characteristics of someone on a cocaine high.Jarvis, of course, knows whereof he speaks, and has himself displayed some of the attitudes of the cocaine socialist - not least in the replacement of Sarah, his girlfriend through the bad times before fame came along, with the teenage actor and model Chloe Sevigny. In fact, his behaviour is entirely consistent with his new ideology. Bearing in mind the massive majority of the New Labour Government, it is to be assumed that we're all cocaine socialists now.
A woman escaping her abusive partner franticly seeks refuge at a domestic violence shelter. A prisoner pleads for her TV to be taken away because she knows exactly how to electrocute herself with it. An inexperienced probation worker is sent to speak to the mother of a dead inmate she’s never met.There are 100 scenes in the full script of Alice Birch’s [BLANK], all inspired by women affected by the criminal justice system, and which Birch describes as an “invitation to you and your company to make your own play from these scenes”. Director Maria Aberg has picked 30 of them for this potent performance at the Donmar Warehouse, which marks 40 years since two female prisoners founded the reformative theatre company Clean Break. Two of its members – Shona Babayemi and Lucy Edkins – are in the cast.
As her feet shuffle beneath her desk, rasping on the smooth dusty floor of the classroom, Sylvia Owemana,13, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), looks up to the shaft of light pouring in, raises her eyebrows and tutts. Her soft quiet voice washes over the desks and chairs, explaining how she had not heard from her parents and siblings for more than two years, the latest news from relatives suggesting that they had all been killed in recent violence in DRC. Sylvia now lives with her 81-year-old grandmother Yosephina, forced to work the plantations on nearby farms around the Kamwenge District, Western Uganda, to provide for them both.Uganda for years has shouldered the burden of conflict in neighbouring countries, hosting 1.2 million refugees; almost 800,000 South Sudanese, and arrivals from the DRC have been on the rise since the beginning of 2019 due to ongoing fighting. These large influxes place enormous strain on limited resources of the humanitarian system, in particular the provision of food assistance to the most vulnerable: children make up 62 per cent of the number, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while a 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey report found 29 per cent of children under five in Uganda are stunted due to chronic undernutrition, which has considerable impacts on health and learning outcomes.
You may recall the disturbing and brilliantly rendered movie Watchmen from a few years ago, itself based on an equally cultish DC Comics strip from the 1980s. It was an ingenious, enthralling mix of the usual superheroes stuff (superpowers, super-warped personalities, super-nonsenses), some wonderful re-invention of history plus a vision of the future – America in the fourth term of a Richard Nixon presidency, evolving into an authoritarian proto-fascistic state. Yes, it does sound familiar, doesn’t it?Sky Atlantic screens a promising HBO-produced variation on the Watchmen theme, easily reconciled to the various originals, which smartly plants it in an “alternative present”, which you might think is beyond sci-fi treatment and parody, but we still have some way to go before all norms of civilised political life have been trashed. There’s a prologue set in the 1920s, before we are catapulted a century on, to a word of vigilantism, secret societies and raining squid, apparently.
Steve McCurry has been one of the most respected names in contemporary photography for more than forty years.Animals discovers a different side to the photographer who skilfully explores their complex relationship with humans and the environment.
An extraordinary image of a standoff between a Tibetan fox and a marmot snapped up the top award at this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.Beating over 48,000 entries from 100 countries, Yongqing Bao, from China, produced a powerful frame of both humour and horror in one perfect picture.
Actor Gina Rodriguez has apologised for posting a video of herself using the N-word on social media.The star of Netflix show Jane The Virgin filmed herself singing along to a Lauryn Hill rap from “Ready Or Not” by the Fugees.
This programme by The Royal Ballet combines gorgeously lucid dancing with an exploration of influence. It celebrates the centenary of contemporary dance pioneer Merce Cunningham with a world premiere from in-demand choreographer Pam Tanowitz and Frederick Ashton’s luminous Monotones II. Always rigorous, it’s an evening that ranges from prickly to serene.Tanowitz formed her own company in 2000, but her international career is skyrocketing after the recent success of Four Quartets, which responded to T.S. Eliot’s poetry with dance of glowing, spacious beauty. The new Everyone Keeps Me is on a smaller scale, focused on connections: between dancers, between Tanowitz and the choreographers who came before her. The intimacy is very appealing, though it’s frustrating that The Royal Ballet keeps putting female choreographers in smaller spaces like the Linbury, away from main stage.
Dublin Murders looks to be a worthy contender for viewers’ attention as the nights draw in. This new crime drama – murder mystery of course – is designed to draw you in and keep you there for an ambitious eight-week run.Well, over the years we’ve had detectives looking into grisly murders everywhere from Oxford to San Francisco, from Shetland to Sicily, from Oslo to Guadeloupe, so why not Dublin? There are some reliable contours to the story – male-female pairing of cops, Cassie and Rob (played by Sarah Greene and Killian Scott), each with troubled lives and a complicated professional relationship; a ritualistic murder of a young girl in the woods (they are almost always young girls, aren’t they?), her body laid out in theatrical fashion upon a sacrificial stone; and not much to go on.
In 1994 Dane Shitagi, a young photographer from Oahu, Hawaii, pushed a small platform into the pool at the bottom of a local waterfall.Claire Unabia James, a ballerina, perched on top of the platform, sometimes wobbling and falling off into the cold water, while Shitagi photographed her from the shore.
I did question whether I deserved it,” says Richard Gadd. “Where did my wrongdoing stop and hers begin? When she started doorstepping me? When she attacked me?”The 30-year-old comedian is talking about his stalker. The woman, “Martha”, who sent him 41,071 emails, 350 hours of voicemail, 744 tweets, 46 Facebook messages, 106 pages of letters, sleeping pills, a woolly hat, a pair of brand new boxer shorts and a cuddly reindeer toy. Who turned up at his shows, and outside his house. “All,” as he says in his new show Baby Reindeer, “within the realms of legality.”
Focusing on crisis, chaos and survival, this year’s London East Asia Film Festival is showcasing disaster comedies, psychological MeToo thrillers and some of the most over-the-top exciting action the world loves from East Asian cinema. This year also welcomes back a special collection focusing on women’s stories, showcasing many faceted tales across Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.With such a huge programme to choose from, here is a highlight of 10 films from this year’s festival that you might want to go and see.
What makes a great painting? Is it one that makes you wonder how on earth the artist reproduced a scene so precisely in paint? Or ones that capture emotion in a single brushstroke? Or simply something utterly beautiful?Art lovers can amble around Paris’s the Louvre, New York’s Moma, Madrid’s Prado, Florence’s Uffizi Gallery and London’s Tate Gallery – even Venice’s Sistine Chapel, looking at walls (and ceilings) full of art.
When Jessica Lange finally admits that her driving is a bit unpredictable it comes as a relief. I was afraid to bring it up from the passenger seat. “My kids used to say, ‘Mom, pick a lane!’” the two-time Oscar winner says, chuckling.On a day with silvery light coming through clouds and Lake Superior to our right, she is piloting us northward from Duluth, on Highway 61. We have a perfect car for an August road trip: her green 1967 Mercedes-Benz 250S, heavy as a tank and with seat belts of questionable functionality. But Lange exudes confidence and so I don’t worry too much. She knows where she is going.
Zanzibar’s traditional healers, with their toolkits of herbs, holy scriptures and massages are being registered by authorities keen to regulate the practitioners who treat everything from depression to hernias.About 340 healers have been registered since Zanzibar, a region of Tanzania, passed the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act in 2009. An estimated 2,000 more healers, or mgangas, are hoping to register, says Hassan Combo, the government registrar at the council that records them.
A cinema in California has cancelled screenings of the Joker following a “credible” threat, police in the state said.The film, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Batman's sadistic nemesis, has proved controversial for its portrayal of violence and there have been heightened security fears surrounding its release.
The great irony about Motherland, back for its third series, is that the very busy mums featured in the show wouldn’t actually have the time to watch a satirical sitcom about very busy mums.
In 2004, photographer Gregory Halpern was living in San Francisco, fresh out of graduate school, barely employed and seriously uninspired. He applied to a number of artist residencies, and one place accepted him – the Bemis Centre for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska.Although it’s the most populous city in the state, Omaha feels remote and typically midwestern. Aside from billionaire Warren Buffet, who was born in the city and has attracted a number of Fortune 500 companies to settle there, the city’s claims to fame are mostly practical and unglamorous – Omaha is the home of TV dinners and raisin bran.
Estate agent Garry Lejeune (Daniel Rigby) is standing in a tattered suit, with a stunned look on his face. “The sardines,” he cries, “they’re gone!”. Before him on set sits a full plate of sardines. Something has gone wrong.In Michael Frayn’s brilliant meta-farce Noises Off (1982), the fourth wall is not so much broken as smashed down, along with much of the set. This is the “play gone wrong” par excellence.
A Banksy painting depicting chimpanzees sitting in parliament has sold for more than £9 million at auction, breaking the record price for a work by the elusive British street artist.“Devolved Parliament”, in which chimpanzees replace politicians in the House of Commons, comfortably surpassed its estimated price tag of £1.5m to £2m, with the auctioneer declaring “history being made” at one point during the sale which was streamed live.
The Royal Ballet’s new season opens with Manon, Kenneth MacMillan’s tale of doomed love and sexual exploitation. It’s a ballet that shows off the whole company’s gift for storytelling, conjuring up an 18th-century world that is greedy, gilded and desperate. Rags and riches literally jostle together in Nicholas Georgiadis’s brilliant designs, poverty looming over the characters’ passions.Created in 1974, Manon has become one of the company’s most popular works. The title role is coveted by ballerinas around the world: a heroine who falls for the young hero Des Grieux, even as she’s being lured into life as a rich man’s mistress.
From Panama to Paris, over 125,000 men and women donned their smartest vintage attire and hopped on their classic motorcycles to take part in the annual Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride, a fundraiser for prostate cancer research and men’s mental health initiatives.Some 10,000 riders are taking to the streets across the UK, braving the rain to take to the streets of cities including Oxford, Bristol and Manchester. In London, some wore goggles, brogues and tweet suits.