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August 18 2012

Cat Power in Miami – in pictures

The Observer New Review commissioned New York-based photographer Annie Collinge to travel to Miami for a shoot with Chan Marshall aka Cat Power. The results were so beautiful we thought we'd treat you to a gallery





July 29 2012

Meltdown 2012 – Marina Abramovic: 'Artists can do whatever they want'

Why men will be banned from Marina Abramovic's Meltdown show

Performance artist best known for her 2010 work, The Artist is Present, in which for three months she invited visitors to take turns sitting opposite her at New York's MoMA gallery

What does Antony mean to you?

Rufus Wainwright invited me to his Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall and Antony sang a song called Snowy Angel. The moment he opened his mouth, I stood up from my seat. His voice hit me in my stomach. It was so emotional and so incredible. Later on we met and talked, and we became friends. To me, he is somebody who has just fallen from the sky, like an angel. It's not just the singing, it's the poetry in his words, and the issues he's interested in – taking responsibility for our planet, being open about gender.

How do you feel about being invited to play his Meltdown?

When he asked me to do a talk at Meltdown just for women, I really had to think about it. I am very clear that I am not a feminist. It puts you into a category and I don't like that. An artist has no gender. All that matters is whether they make good art or bad art. So I thought about it, but then I said yes.

What do you have planned?

The title of my lecture for women is The Spirit In Any Condition Does Not Burn It's new and exciting for me to do this. Right now I'm on holiday and almost every day I'm thinking how I'm going to handle this talk, and every day it's changing. I'm interested in asking: what does feminine energy mean? The Dalai Lama said he wants to return as a woman. I don't have answers – I just have questions and interesting examples.

What if any men try to sneak in?

When Antony asked me to do this, I was very radical. You want me to do women? Then the men will not come. That's it. He said, what about the people who feel, though they're in a male body, that they're women? That's fine, I said, but all the rest, they're excluded. Why not do something strange and different for once? Artists can do whatever they want! I'm really open to seeing what will happen and what consequences it will have.

Will you be watching any of the other acts at Meltdown?

I hope to stay at least for five days and see as much as possible. I want to see Diamanda Galas because I know and admire her work. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson are good friends, and I will go and see them. But I am really interested in performers I don't know that much. I want to see all of Antony's choices.

Are there any new artists you'd recommend at the moment?

There's such an interesting artist called William Basinski, who is from Los Angeles. He makes endless loops, a very meditative type of music that gives you a distorted sense of time. He's worked with Antony for a long time but it was a discovery for me, listening to him.

Who'd be on your Meltdown bill?

I would focus on long-durational works of art. Everything would be more than six hours, so people actually have to create time in order to see the work. If I could not find contemporary pieces I would like to commission different artists because I think long-durational work is something we need, because life is so fast. I would also have some historical pieces made, like the work of John Cage, which would take several hours to be executed. But I would also think about young artists doing something with music, dance and performance. I will have to make a list of names and get back to you.


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June 29 2012

The designer going from Gaga to the Olympic closing ceremony

Es Devlin has designed sets for Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Take That, and has just recreated Carthage for Les Troyens at Covent Garden. Now she is preparing for the biggest show of all – the London 2012 closing ceremony

What do Harold Pinter, Lady Gaga, the Royal Opera House, Batman and the organising committee of the London Olympic games have in common? More clues? Add to that list Kanye West, Sadlers Wells, Take That and the Royal Shakespeare Company. Answer: the stage designer Es Devlin. Since emerging in the late 1990s, Devlin has put together an impressively varied body of work that ranges from rooms above pubs, opera houses and sporting stadiums. A revival of her production of Strauss's Salome at the Royal Opera House has just closed and a new production of Berlioz's Les Troyens has just opened. She designed Kanye West's recent O2 concerts and Rihanna's sets for her Brits and Grammy appearances. In August she will design the closing ceremony for the London Olympic games.

"Of course they are all different, but they are also all the same in the thought processes that go into them," she explains. "There's no other way to do it." She says while the productions have different rhythms, with the lead time for opera measured in years and for television sometimes in hours, there is extensive cross-fertilisation of ideas that emerge over time. "I was thinking about a 20m-high man made out of junk for the Take That tour in 2010, at the same time as having my first thoughts about a huge horse made of destroyed weaponry for Les Troyens. I was creating a model of Gotham City for the Batman live show at the same time as a version of Bruges that was like a map of a brain, with its system of neural canals for Korngold's opera Die Tote Stadt in Helsinki. There's also a miniature city in Les Troyens. Everything comes out differently in the end, but you can sort of trace where my head has been at any given time."

Devlin has previously dealt with the narrative material of Berlioz's monumental five-hour opera based on the Aeneid when designing Euripides's Hecuba, starring Vanessa Redgrave, for the RSC. The research into Berlioz's life and work has largely come through David Cairns's award-winning biography. "The bloody thing is two volumes long. He could have got it into one book! But it is a magnificent project. Absolutely fascinating. And that's always the way it happens for me. Someone brings me a project I know little about before taking it on, and I find myself asking 'how the fuck didn't I know about this stuff?' It all adds to a bed of information that becomes part of my mental landscape that I then can't imagine not being there."

Les Troyens is directed by David McVicar. The pair also worked together on Salome and Devlin claims her route from theatre and opera into the pop world began with that production. In a South Bank Show about McVicar, Devlin was spotted by the pop singer Mika – "I suspect it was actually his mother who saw the programme, although he insists it was him" – which lead her to work on his stadium concerts. Soon after she was designing the Take That tour, working with some of the team behind the London 2012 events.

She chose Niall Ferguson's history of the British empire as her primary Olympics research book. "I was trying to find some virtuous things about the empire, but most of what I came across was pretty bad. However, British music was and is something we can be very proud of and so we have tried to imagine a celestial radio that only tunes into British music and then made something out of finding your way through the frequencies. There are a lot of technical restrictions – there is only a 4m door for a start, so nothing higher can be brought into the arena than that – so my starting point was simple: what would it be like with just a single voice in the darkness and we've gone from there."

And it was a simple sound and light show – albeit on a more modest scale than in an Olympic stadium – that provided Devlin with one of her first theatrical memories. "There was a son et lumière set in the model of Rye town where I lived as a child. The little houses would light up and they would tell the ghost stories associated with writers who had lived in the area such as Henry James, Rumer Godden and Joan Aiken. I loved it and actually took my own children back to see it quite recently; the magic held up pretty well."

Devlin was born in 1971 and grew up in Sussex. She and her siblings "made things all the time. We'd make board games and try to invent the new Monopoly. We'd always be playing round with projectors and light bulbs." Her theatrical exposure included annual pantos, but also trips to London with godparents to see Andrew Lloyd Webber shows. "I was stage struck, but that was as much to do with coming to London as with the shows. Woven into my memory of the shows was going to a restaurant and seeing the lights of cars going past the window. It was very exciting."

She played the violin, clarinet and piano and studied at the Royal Academy of Music Saturday classes but eventually went on to read English at university. A fine art foundation course followed at St Martin's before she was accepted to study set design on the Motley Theatre Design Course. "People kept telling me to go and look at this course which only has 10 people and is in Drury Lane. I wasn't even that much of a theatregoer – but that's not so unusual among designers. It's a standing joke that you ask what have they been to see lately and they haven't been to see anything – but when I got there I felt completely at home and that's when I started going to see absolutely everything in London as well as making things like a Duracell rabbit. I just got going."

In 1996 she won a Linbury award as a student "and the prize was a job, which is the best thing you can give anyone." She designed a production of Edward II in a swimming pool for the Bolton Octagon and by 1997 she was an associate artist at Bush Theatre from where she would "audaciously" send letters to theatre people asking them to see her shows. Trevor Nunn accepted the invitation – "he wanted to see the show anyway" – and in 1998 asked Devlin to design his new production of Pinter's Betrayal at the Lyttelton. Devlin wrote to Rachel Whiteread, explaining that she intended to pay homage to her art work, House, in her design for a play she thought was about remembered rooms.

"She gave her blessing which was wonderful. But that poor Pinter piece," Devlin laughs. "All it needed was a stage and some good acting. It's all in the writing and did not need all the stuff I laid on to it. But Pinter was so sweet about it and he would introduce me to people and say 'This is Es, she wrote the play.' I'd never do that design now, but I was thrilled that I did it then because it was absolutely what I believed in. It was wonderful that my parents gave us all so much confidence, and it's been a huge help. But when I look back now I do cringe a little. In that sense being given the name Esmeralda was a good as an open invitation to other children to prick that bubble at least a little bit, but some of the things I did were still so wrong, but I just pushed them through because of this confidence. People must have looked at me like I was crazy upstart, but I just muscled along."

It was an approach that soon saw her working with the Rambert Dance Company for the re-opening of Sadlers Wells and being asked to design her first opera for the Guildhall School of Drama. "And then things started to come in thick and fast," designing for the RSC as well as for opera houses all over europe. In 2003 she was offered her first non-operatic musical commission when the group Wire asked her to design one half – Jake and Dinos Chapman designed the other – of their farewell gig at the Barbican.

"I was becoming slightly institutionalised so it came at good time for me. When I began I would be asking theatres for awkward things and they would give me reasons why they couldn't do it. Pretty soon directors were asking me for awkward things and I would be telling them why they couldn't do it. I was getting a little conditioned by the establishment so to step outside theatre gave me a kind of jolt."

Kanye West heard about the Wire show and the two have been working together since 2005. "Seven years is quite something in a world that changes so rapidly. He's a completely extraordinary character. The speed of mind is phenomenal and you really have to be on your toes. You get halfway through a sentence and he says 'Yeah. got it.' And you have to move on. We've had some serious fights because he is a perfectionist. But you have to realise you are working with extraordinary people. I do think performers are a different species. It sounds pretentious, but if you have an opportunity to be part of what they're doing then you put your hands up and help out. I think I'm busy. But just getting up and being West or Gaga for a day is exhausting."

Devlin invited West to see Salome at Covent Garden and on his next tour he incorporated an orchestra pit into his stage show. She says there is increasing crossover between the different worlds in which she operates, particularly in terms of technology, but the essential aims are ultimately the same.

"It is all about creating a coherent world. If you walk into a theatre you trust your imagination to the people putting on the show. That is why it is so important at the beginning of a show to broker the terms of that engagement and then to see it through. It comes down to telling the truth. Honest people are interesting." The act of telling a truth is fascinating whether it's in a theatre, opera house or stadium. "You might think a Take That concert is lacking in truth. But when you are there, with 80,000 other people singing those tunes you see how important they have been to their lives. You hear those songs on the radio, whether by Gary Barlow or Elton John or whoever, and they hook into you before you realise what the song is. There is a huge emotional truth in that for an awful lot of people." One of her notes to self for the Olympics is that people have to get things absolutely instantly. "It has to be get it! Get it! Get it! You can pick out just a fraction of a song and people will recognise it immediately and it takes them to the place they remember it from. The music is going to be wonderful. Putting it on is the tricky bit."

After the last medal has been awarded Devlin and her team will have 16 hours to prepare the set. Half of that time will be spent protecting the pitch. "It's going to be tight. As Jay-Z says: 'Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week,' which is part of the reason that when you work for these guys you can get a bit mangled. You are the person doing the impossible in a week. We will have rehearsals off-site and if we're lucky we'll get one inside on the day, but not necessarily. Flying? Lighting? Video? You'd usually say sort it all out in the tech rehearsal, but there might not be one. I don't normally get stressed, but I am a bit anxious about this one."


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June 28 2012

Martin Creed: Love to You – review

(Moshi Moshi)

Better known as the artist-provocateur responsible for winning the 2001 Turner Prize for lights going on and off in an empty room, Martin Creed's musical forays are much beloved of the Cribs and Franz Ferdinand, and you can hear why. The Glaswegian employs similar frenetic, jagged guitars, although the way his ramshackle pop teeters on the edge of chaos is more reminiscent of the very early Mekons. Creed's songwriting avoids conventional structures but emerges with quirky tunes, over which he ponders life's daily grind with titles such as What's The Point of It? and Die. The title track is beautifully wistful, and I Can't Move finds him layering vowels, like a painting done with sound. Such minor gems alternate with more provocative short statements. The deliberately irritating Fuck Off is like being harangued by a drunk, and will surely be responsible for one or two scratched heads and grumblings of "Is this art?"

Rating: 3/5


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Rolling Stones unveil facelift for legendary lips logo

To mark their 50th anniversary, the band asked artist Shephard Fairey to update rock's most famous piece of branding

The Rolling Stones have unveiled a new logo to mark their 50th anniversary. American artist Shepard Fairey was commissioned for the project, which sees a subtle reworking of the band's classic image of lips, teeth and tongue.

The new logo takes the Stones' original tongue logo, designed by English designer John Pasche, and adds a circular white and red banner. "The Rolling Stones/Fifty Years," it reads, as well as incorporating the number 50 into the Stones' name.

Fairey, best known for his poster of Barack Obama, has become a go-to artist for rock musicians, designing album covers for Tom Petty, Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins and a Led Zeppelin compilation. Earlier this year he was commissioned to create paintings for each of the songs on Neil Young's new album with Crazy Horse, Americana. The artworks are currently on exhibition in Los Angeles, and will accompany Young on a short forthcoming tour.

Next month, the Stones will meet in London to discuss the prospect of a new album and a 50th anniversary tour. In an interview published this week, Keith Richards said the band are considering working with Jack White, who has previously produced albums by Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson.


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May 20 2012

This week's cultural highlights: The Raid and Bath festival jazz weekend

Our critics' picks of this week's openings, plus your last chance to see and what to book now

• Which cultural events are in your diary this week? Tell us in the comments below

Opening this week

Theatre

Wah! Wah! Girls
British musical meets Bollywood in new love-against-the-odds show set in the East End of London with a cast of 14, almost all British Asians and a Polish handyman. Peacock,London, Thursday to 23 June.

Posh
Laura Wade has updated her Royal Court hit to point the spotlight once again on the Oxbridge dining clubs that spawned the posh boys currently in power. Duke of Yorks theatre, London, until 4 August.

Betrayal
John Simm stars in Harold Pinter's semi-autobiographical play about an adulterous love affair. The power of the piece is that it works backwards from its bitter end to the moment the affair first sparked. Crucible, Sheffield, until 9 June.

Film

The Raid (dir. Gareth Evans)
Brilliant martial arts bulletfest from Indonesia that puts western action movies to shame. Welsh director Evans orchestrates nail-biting sequences. Out now.

Dance

The Royal Ballet Ballo Della Regina and La Sylphide
Romantic illusion and virtuosity combine in this double bill of works by George Balanchine and August Bournonville. Royal Opera House, London, in rep from Monday until 15 June.

Emio Greco/PC: Rocco
Dance is reconfigured as a boxing match in this new work from Emio Greco and Pieter C Scholten, inspired by Visconti's film Rocco and His Brothers, about a prostitute who brings trouble to the siblings. Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London , Tuesday and Wednesday.

Classical

Caligula
The British premiere of Detlev Glanert's 2005 opera based upon the play by Albert Camus. Peter Coleman-Wright is the crazed Roman emperor in Benedict Andrews's production for ENO, with Ryan Wigglesworth conducting. Coliseum, London, Friday until 14 June.

Philip Glass at 75
The latest instalment of Glasgow survey of minimalism pays a birthday tribute to one of its founding fathers, including the British premiere of his Sixth Symphony, the Kronos Quartet playing his film score to Bela Lugosi's Dracula, and the man himself giving a solo piano recital. Royal Concert Hall and City Halls, Glasgow (0141-353 8000), Thursday to Saturday.

Jazz

Arve Henriksen/Trio Mediaeval
Norwegian trumpeter Henriksen has taken the ambiguous, muted sound of Miles Davis as adapted by his fellow-countryman Nils Petter Molvaer, and given it a unique contemporary spin with the help of ingenious electronics, and a world-music perspective that includes study of the ethereal Japanese shakuhachi flute. He lends his inimitable variations to the early-music vocals and plainsong of Trio Mediaeval. Sage, Gateshead, Monday. Then touring.

Visual art

The Historical Box
Dissident American art created in the aftermath of Vietnam, 1960s performance and the feminist revolution – mangled things and angry things, from a time when art thought it could make a difference. Hauser & Wirth Piccadilly, London, Wednesday to 28 July.

Pop

Japandroids
The euphoric rock duo preview forthcoming album Celebration Rock up and down the UK. Cooler, Bristol, tonight. Then touring until 29 May.

Jay-Z and Kanye West
Superstar rappers bring their Watch the Throne collaboration to London as a forerunner for gigs in Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield next month. 02, London, tonight and tomorrow.

Last chance to see

Theatre

Making Noise Quietly
Robert Holman's exquisite triptych of mini-dramas that explores what it means to be human in a violent world. Just beautiful. Donmar, London, until Saturday.

Film

Breathing (dir. Karl Markovics)
A tremendous social-realist drama from Austria directed by actor-turned-director Markovics. An orphaned teenage criminal tries to discover his mother's identity.

Classical

The Flying Dutchman
The end of the first run of ENO's new production, much praised for Edward Gardner's conducting, and for performances by James Cresswell, Orla Boylan and Stuart Skelton. Coliseum, London , until Wednesday.

Jazz

Lynne Arriale/Benny Golson
Arriale, a quietly forceful Bill Evans-influenced American pianist with a knack for unusual interpretation and evocative composing invites legendary saxist/composer Golson (the bluesy acid-jazz favourite Killer Joe is his) into her regular Convergence Quartet. Ronnie Scott's, London, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Art

Elizabeth Price
Fetishised objects, great music, scenes in galleries – and in a drowned container ship. These are digital video installations with a hardcore hi-tech sheen from the 2012 Turner prize contender. Baltic, Gateshead, until Sunday.

Pop

The Horrors
Southend-on-Sea's post-punkers conclude the UK leg of their seemingly endless world tour. Brixton Academy, Friday.

Book now

Theatre

Fuerza Bruta
Return of the rave show from the people who brought us the legendary De La Guarda. This isn't in the same league, but if you're looking for excitement and sensation, this shouldn't disappoint.Roundhouse, London, 27 December to 26 January.

Ben Hur
An impossible feat: a stage version of the epic novel featuring sea battles, Roman orgies and chariot-racing, all on a stage the size of a postage stamp. A cast of four play 12,059 characters! Should be fun. Watermill, Newbury (01635 46044), 22 June to 28 July

Dance

Flawless and English National Ballet: Time Is of the Essence
Ballet, street dance and acrobatics test out their mutual chemistry in this new collaboration choreographed by Marlon Wallen and Jenna Lee. HMV Hammersmith Apollo, London, , 1-2 JuneThen touring.

Classical

Spitalfields summer festival
This year's associate artists are the Gabrieli Consort and Players, cellist Matthew Barley and composer Talvin Singh; plus there's a wide range of choral music, from the renaissance to the present day, with new works from Alec Roth, Huw Watkins and Nicola LeFanu. Various venues, London, 8-23 June.

Jazz

Bath festival jazz weekend
This festival always features a wide-ranging jazz weekend: this year's includes saxophonist Jason Yarde's subtle duo with pianist Andrew McCormack, Courtney Pine's genre-bending Europa, pianists Stan Tracey, Tord Gustavsen, Gwilym Simcock and Zoe Rahman, along with Manchester's acclaimed young Beats & Pieces big band. Various venues, Bath, 2-4 June.

Art

Wide Open School
A hundred artists lead courses, lectures and demonstrations open to the public. Get down and dirty with the Gelitin group, take a course in queer home economics, cook offal with Yto Barrada, learn about energy not quality with Thomas Hirschhorn. Hayward, London , 11 June-11 July.

Pop

Richard Hawley
The bequiffed son of Sheffield takes his latest album, Standing at the Sky's Edge, out for an autumn jaunt. Tour begins at Holmfirth Picture House, West Yorkshire, 16 September.


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May 08 2012

Was Bianca Jagger wrong to take flash photos at the opera?

The activist was spotted snapping away during Einstein on the Beach. In his new code of conduct for audiences, Leo Benedictus looks at what sort of behaviour is now acceptable

Last Friday, the theatre critic Mark Shenton was distracted from a five-hour performance of Philip Glass's opera Einstein on the Beach by a woman in his row taking photographs with a flash. It turned out to be Bianca Jagger. She had been snapping in defiance, Shenton claims, of complaints from those around her. Jagger has since said that others were taking pictures, too, adding that Shenton insulted and assaulted her. (He denies the latter, but admits the former with some pride.) The rules of behaviour in today's theatre audiences certainly seem to have changed. So, in the spirit of public service, and after consultation with Guardian critics, here is a new code of conduct.

1 Don't rattle your jewellery

All noise matters when you've come to listen to something. So a rustling packet in a classical concert can be as distracting as someone walking in front of a cinema screen. This makes even minor noises problematic. Vibrating phones are one example (we'll get to ringing). Vigorous page-turning is another. (In German concert halls, apparently, this is looked upon very gravely.)

Even jewellery is a common problem. "It's women who insist on wearing those multiple bangles," says our classical critic Andrew Clements, "so that every time they move their arms, which they invariably do in the quietest passages, you get extra unwanted percussion." Clements also complains about loud snoring, so if you know yourself to be a snorer, perhaps have a can of Red Bull before the show. The weak-bladdered should have half.

2 Do you really need an audioguide?

If you go to a gallery to be told what to look at, then by all means get one. But if you go along to explore, to be surprised, to linger around works that excite you, then all you have to do is, well, walk around. "Will an audioguide help you to get more?" asks art critic Jonathan Jones. "Or will it distract you from a fresh encounter with the art?"

Freedom of movement, he thinks, should be protected: stand where you like, look as long as you like, go back and look again. Anybody who objects can wait their turn. Freedom of speech, on the other hand, can be a nuisance. "What's annoying," says Jones, "is when someone loudly holds forth about a work, oblivious to strangers who are also looking. This can be distracting and destructive – even on the rare occasions when the showoff actually knows anything."

3 Talking, lateness, cameras, food, body odour

Michael Billington describes food as his "chief beef" in theatre audience etiquette, and recalls someone recently bringing a whole Chinese takeaway into The Duke of York's in London. Tim Ashley describes other people's body odour as his great bugbear, and insists other opera critics say the same. "If you're sitting next to somebody who stinks through six hours of Wagner, it can be a trial," he says. Theatre critic Lyn Gardner, meanwhile, is of the firm opinion that "people's bladders have quite clearly got weaker over the last 20 years".

There are difficult choices here. Cinemas and regional theatres often rely on confectionary sales to survive, so they do end up contributing to the rustling menace. As for lateness, there is a feeling that some venues could be far more sensitive about when they let the tardy in. After an overture is OK; between movements of a symphony is not. (Composers could start notating such moments in manuscripts, using whatever the Italian is for "latecomers".)

The principle, in short, is to avoid annoying people. So if you've annoyed somebody, you're in the wrong (and let's face it, you're never going to convince them otherwise). If somebody complains, obey them – and argue about it afterwards.

4 Your right to throw beer ends where my body begins

This observation from rock critic Caroline Sullivan is a reminder that, although gigs clearly have more relaxed rules than most other shows, there are still rules. And beer-flinging is certainly not permitted. "I experienced it most recently at Kings of Leon in Hyde Park," Sullivan says. "The entire audience expressed their enthusiasm by throwing pints over each other."

Accidental flinging also occurs, often as a consequence of lazy carrying. So if you're buying drinks for your friends, you are not allowed to transport more than three glasses at any time.

Sullivan does not object to mosh pits, though. "If you want to mosh, go down there and I'll stay at the back," she says. Her main grievance concerns her view. "Tall people really should play fair and stand at the back," she says. "I think it should be law." The practical considerations here – if a tall person has a short friend, or if he wants to mosh – have yet to be ironed out.

5 It's called "children's theatre" not "nursery"

Quite naturally, parents want to avoid spending time with their children. But the price of a ticket to a children's theatre show does not include babysitting services from those on stage.

This exercises Gardner, especially when parents look as if they know the rules but can't be bothered following them. "What they do is sit there while the show is going on, looking at their mobiles, and allowing their children to wander all over the stage," she says. By the same token, if you've taken young people to the theatre, and they are clearly bored, don't try to force them to be interested. This is unreasonable and counter-productive. "Not all theatre is good," says Gardner. "A lot of it is really rather dull."

6 Hecklers are allowed to say two unfunny things

Standup is unusual in that audiences are expected to try to spoil it. Many comedians disapprove of heckling and in bigger venues it's impractical; even so, people do sometimes shout funny things, and most comics will have a decent putdown ready if hecklers fail to reach a certain standard.

However, heckling is an art for miniaturists. If you think you've thought of something funny to say, but it doesn't get a laugh, then you need to revisit that assumption. Spoiling the performance in an attempt to save face is not the answer. Drunk people are very slow to learn this. At one Scott Capurro gig in Edinburgh, I remember a young woman having to be physically removed by staff because she would not stop interrupting (a surprise, because his audiences are often only too happy to walk out). Perhaps this punishment should be meted out more often.

7 Off means off

About 10 years ago, it became routine for venues to warn audiences to turn off their phones. About five years ago, everybody stopped noticing. This is a forgetfulness problem, in short, and it will never go away. (Phones also ring at funerals, remember.) Instead, we have to manage it. So when you turn your phone off, it should be off, not silent. This discourages you from distracting people, or yourself, with its vibrations or lights. It's tough but necessary. When staying connected is important, there could be limited exceptions. Gardner suggests that theatres should institute special rows of seats for tweeters (as happens in parts of the US).

Billington even recommends turning off your phone with time to spare. He cites the US director Bartlett Sher, who believes audiences need a while to disconnect themselves from all their everyday worries – perhaps 20 minutes. By the same rationale, you should always arrive early, as Ashley does.

8 Don't be so bloody precious

Overreacting is antisocial behaviour, too. So if somebody's annoying you, in any way, act early. Think carefully about what you hope to achieve, and – if you can achieve anything – speak kindly at an opportune moment. Don't just stew until your anger overflows.

In the theatre, where Gardner describes "a sort of war" between the old guard and the new, this is a growing problem. Star-led casting, in particular, brings in people who are not used to the environment. They are more liable to behave badly, but they are also badly needed. If you love the theatre, then you are doing it a disservice by sending them home annoyed. On the other hand, when something is being a distraction nearby, you have a duty to do something. Others further off may be equally annoyed, but powerless, so they are depending on you.

Remember that – and don't rely on having an enraged Mark Shenton at the end of every row.


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The Beatles on the road, 1964-1966 – in pictures

Photographer Harry Benson was granted access to the Beatles' inner sanctum in the mid-60s. Take a look at his intimate portraits of a band on the cusp of world domination



April 26 2012

The week in music - in pictures

Jack White in London, Rihanna in New York and Willie Nelson with a statue of himself in Austin – yes, it's the week's highlights from planet pop and beyond



Wildbirds & Peacedrums's A Room for London performance – watch online

Singer Mariam Wallentin and drummer Andreas Werliin met at Gothenburg's Academy Of Music and Drama in 2004, and married the following year. Frustrated by the institute's rigid format, the pair say that Wildbirds & Peacedrums was born of a desire to break free and play music that captures pure, ecstatic feeling.

Watch Laura Barton ask the pair more about their plans here.

An apology: tonight's live stream has been cancelled because of technical difficulties. The duo's performance is still taking place, and you'll be able to watch it on-demand on this site later in the week.

A Room for London – the one-bedroom hotel installation perched on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London – is now sold-out to the public but is hosting a season of writing, performance and music that has been programmed by Artangel



April 25 2012

Jeremy Hunt: Can't stop, off to Swan Lake

What has the Leveson inquiry revealed about Jeremy Hunt's taste in art? Did he get to Take That? And how big an N-Dubz fan is he?

On Monday, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted "With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come (Gratiano, Merchant of Venice)", a celebratory quote for Shakespeare's birthday. On Tuesday, "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" might have seemed more appropriate.

Perhaps surprisingly, only two of the emails released by the Leveson inquiry this week indicated that Hunt had an interest in the arts beyond the Murdochs' BSkyB takeover bid. One, from News Corp's public affairs executive Frédéric Michel to James Murdoch, reported grabbing the culture secretary "before he went in to see Swan Lake" to discuss the bid. In another, sent later that year, Michel plaintively asked Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith whether Ed Vaizey's refusal to meet News Corp while the deal was going through meant that "you and Jeremy will not be coming to Take That on 4 July".

Between them, Take That and Swan Lake suggest that Hunt has fairly mainstream tastes – and in fact, according to the Royal Opera House, the ballet was an unusual outing; a spokesperson confirms that Hunt is not a regular. Did he or did he not see Take That at Wembley on 4 July? The band's press officer says he has no idea: "He didn't get tickets from us."

In the five years since he was made shadow culture secretary, and then culture secretary when the Tories won the 2010 election, Hunt has given the impression of someone who enjoys the arts without having a deep knowledge of – or passion for – them. To be fair, though, he seems more culturally immersed than his opposite number Harriet Harman, or the shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis.

At a meeting of the rightwing culture thinktank New Culture Forum last year, Hunt said his major policy for the arts was to encourage philanthropy. But this approach ran into trouble earlier this month, after tax relief for philanthropists was restricted in the budget. Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said the Treasury had "completely pulled the carpet from under" Hunt's attempts to encourage rich donors.

The culture secretary appears to have an interest in pop music beyond Take That: a journalist who interviewed him for the London Evening Standard last summer (shortly before the BSkyB bid failed) reported seeing a biography of N-Dubz on Hunt's desk. "Well, Tulisa is going to be gracing our screens, isn't she?" he said, of the N-Dubz member who went on to be an X Factor judge. In 2010, he revealed his classical music preferences to Guardian arts correspondent Charlotte Higgins: "I am still early Schoenberg rather than late." He also enjoys Tchaikovsky, attending Opera North's production of The Queen of Spades and ENO's Eugene Onegin, directed by Deborah Warner.

Russian literature seems to resonate with Hunt, too. He admires the poets Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova, who were dissidents during the Soviet regime, and quoted a poem by Mandelstam in his first speech as culture secretary. Then there's his passion for Japanese culture; Hunt speaks the language after teaching English there.

Like other Tories, Hunt has spoken warmly about their star signing, Tracey Emin. He attended the private view of her retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, and in his first keynote speech on the arts, cited her grafitto "I need art like I need God", sprayed on the sea wall at Margate. "Sometimes graffiti – however objectionable and anti-social it is in principle – can be very thought-provoking," he noted.

But it was culture minister Ed Vaizey rather than Hunt who schmoozed Emin. In 2009, the Guido Fawkes website reported that the pair enjoyed a three-hour lunch at Scott's of Mayfair, and she has also dined with David Cameron at No 10. All this paid off when Emin declared her support for the Tories last year: "At the moment there is a government that actually likes the arts, appreciates the arts and appreciates culture."

Hunt is an admirer of Grayson Perry, too. He went to Perry's recent exhibition at the British Museum, and has a print by the artist on his office wall – alongside a photograph of him meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles. He picked another contemporary work from the Government Art Collection for his office in 2010: a Mark Wallinger painting from a 1990s series called Brown's (42 sets of silks worn by jockeys riding for racehorse owners called Brown). Alerted to this by the Guardian, the Labour-supporting Wallinger groaned: "That is a shocker. As an artist, it's very hard to vet your patrons – they generally drift rightwards as they get older anyway."

Hunt's trips to the theatre point to a taste divided between blockbusters and political theatre. He saw David Hare's indictment of New Labour, Gethsemane, as well as Lucy Prebble's Enron; the latter might have proved an uncomfortable night for a Tory, though Hunt told New Culture Forum he considered it a prime example of why theatre should keep its subsidy. He has also seen hits such as War Horse, at the National Theatre, and Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, which he attended on its West End transfer in the run-up to the election.

Hunt's most recent direct intervention in the arts world was his decision to fire Liz Forgan as chair of Arts Council England, saying that a new appointment was necessary in order to encourage greater private giving to the arts, and to help the arts sector "make the most of technological changes". John Tusa, Veronica Wadley and Peter Bazalgette have been mooted as possible successors. Whether Hunt will still be around to appoint one of them seems doubtful – unless, in the words of Take That, everything changes.

Correction 26/4/12. The article suggested that Hunt's opposite number is Labour's Dan Jarvis. In fact Jarvis is shadow culture minister. The shadow culture secretary is Harriet Harman. This has been corrected.


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April 01 2012

This week's cultural highlights: Into the Abyss and Madonna

Our critics' picks of this week's openings, plus your last chance to see and what to book now

• Which cultural events are in your diary this week? Tell us in the comments below

Opening this week

Theatre

In a Garden
The Ustinov's ambitious season of modern American plays continues with the British premiere of Howard Korder's play about an American architect summoned to a Middle Eastern country to fulfil an impossible commission. Richard Beecham directs a tale of dangerous misunderstandings. Ustinov, Bath (01225 448844), Wednesday until 5 May.

Film

Into the Abyss (dir. Werner Herzog)
Werner Herzog probes the dark heart of humanity with his death-row interviews. Why do people kill?

Dance

The Royal Ballet: Mixed Bill
The Royal at their adventurous best, with new works by Liam Scarlett and Wayne McGregor, plus a revival of Wheeldon's classy, intelligent Polophonia. Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020-7304 4000), Thursday until 23 April.

The Eifman Ballet: Anna Karenina (Tue-Weds) Onegin (Fri)
Big, passionate storytelling from this St Petersburg-based company. London Coliseum, WC2 (0871 911 0200), Tuesday until 7 April.

Classical

St John Passion
Stephen Layton's performances with his choir Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are regularly among the best of the annual crop of Easter passions; Ian Bostridge takes the role of the Evangelist this time. St John's, Smith Square, London SW1 (020-7222 1061), Friday.

Aldeburgh Easter Weekend
Beethoven is this year's focus; Elisabeth Leonskaja's performances of the last three piano sonatas are flanked by performances of the Ninth Symphony, with the Britten-Pears Orchestra conducted by Ben Parry, and Schoenberg's rarely heard choral piece Friede auf Erden providing the prologue. Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh (01728 687110), Friday to Sunday.

Jazz

Oxford Jazz festival

Lively, week-long international festival, including Swedish jazz singer Cecilia Stalin (exploring new vocal settings for classic John Coltrane themes) at the Ashmolean Dining Room on Thursday, innovative young guitarist Kristian Borring at COPA on Friday, and a full Easter weekend programme – headlined by bass star Michael Janisch's international group, the New York Standards Quartet at Oxford Playhouse on 7 April. Various venues, Oxford, 1-7 April.

Pop

The Futureheads
In the wake of their a cappella album, Rant – a pretty bold move by anyone's standards – the Futureheads embark on an acoustic and a cappella tour. Tour begins Monday, Komedia Brighton (01273 647100).

Orbital
There's something rather pleasing about the way the reformed Orbital have gone from providing a night out for disco dads to a genuine musical force once more: new album Wonky may actually be their best. Tour begins Thursday, Manchester Academy (0161-832 1111).

Visual art

Remote Control
Exploring the impact television has had on culture, this is more than just artists on the box. This huge group show channel-surfs Richard Hamilton and Richard Serra, Adrian Piper, Taryn Simon, Mark Leckey and many others, from the 60s to the present. ICA, London SW1 (020-7930 3647), Tuesday to 10 June.

Last chance to see

Theatre

Romeo and Juliet
Young, fresh, vibrant and completely heartbreaking, and you can't often say that about Shakespeare's over-familiar tale of star-crossed lovers. A memorable revival from director Robert Icke and Headlong. Hull Truck (01482 323638), until Saturday.

Film

Michael (dir. Markus Schleinzer)
This brilliant and bizarre drama, inspired by the Fritzl and Kampusch cases, shows the banal life of a paedophile. The suspense is unbearable.

Jazz

Get the Blessing
Vivacious jazz-rock band driven by Portishead's rhythm section plays mix of Ornette Coleman-influenced jazz, Morricone-like atmospherics and old-school twangy guitar rock from new OC DC album. Ronnie Scott's, London W1 (020-7439 0747), Tuesday.

Pop

Le Beat Bespoke Weekender
The Pretty Things, the Sorrows, July, the Poets and the Trashmen: if these are the kind of vintage names that excite you, then this mammoth annual mod/psych event offers nirvana. 229, London W1 (020-7323 7229), Thursday to Sunday.

Kylie Minogue
Who would have thought, 25 years ago, that Kylie Minogue might celebrate her silver jubilee by playing gigs consisting entirely of B-sides, demos and rarities? Tour ends Monday, Manchester Academy (0161-832 1111).

Visual art

Thomas Demand Model Studies
Demand photographs models of real and imagined places – this time working with rediscovered architectural models by celebrated US architect John Lautner (1911-94). Images of haunting, mysterious, decaying places. Nottingham Contemporary (0115-948 9750), until 15 April.

Book now

Theatre

Professor Vanessa's Wondershow
The era of the 1930s and 40s circus sideshow is recreated in a show that will take over the Roundhouse's main space and invite audiences to step back in time. Gawp at the headless lady and the electrifying 27,000-volt girl, and marvel at the human insect circus performers. Roundhouse, London NW1 (0844 482 8008), 23-29 April.

Wonderland
Alice gets a makeover, in an adults-only new piece from the ever-inventive Vanishing Point, which looks at what happens when a young girl leaves home in search of fame and stardom. A tale of dreams, temptations and curiosity. Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh (0131-473 2000), 29 August to 1 September.

The Sunshine Boys
It's not so much Neil Simon's tale of a legendary vaudevillian double act that is the draw here as the casting, which is very tasty indeed. Thea Sharrock directs Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths in this tale of showbiz rivalries. Savoy, London WC2 (0844 871 7687), 27 April until 28 July.

Film

This Must Be the Place (dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
Paolo Sorrentino's English-language debut has Sean Penn as a retired Goth rocker living in Dublin. News about his father sends him on an American quest.

Dance

International Dance Festival Birmingham
Birmingham's month-long dance programme brings UK revivals for hit shows like Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant's Push, a solo for Louise LeCavalier created by Nigel Charnock, and the premiere of a new work featuring the disabled dance virtuoso David Toole. Various venues, from 23 April until 19 May.

Classical

Einstein on the Beach
Some seats still available for the UK premiere of Philip Glass's groundbreaking stage work, in a recreation of Robert Wilson's original 1976 production. Barbican, London EC2 (020-7638 8891), 4-13 May.

Jazz

Esperanza Spalding

Charismatic young Grammy-winning vocalist/bassist Spalding brings her 12-piece band to London, showcasing songs from her April album release, Radio Music Society. With her stage presence, acoustic-bass virtuosity, graceful vocals and seamless fusion of jazz, pop and classical chamber music, Spalding has star power written all over her. Koko, London, NW1 (0870 432 5527), 28 May.

Pop

Madonna

Whether you think MDNA represents a return to classic form or a more modest achievement, Madonna's UK tour is bound to be one of the summer's biggest musical events. Tour begins 17 July, Hyde Park, London (0844 576 5483).

Visual art

Glasgow international festival of visual art
Interactive art by Jeremy Deller, Wolfgang Tillmans photographs, Richard Wright drawings, LA-based installationist Kelly Nipper at Tramway, a new film co-commissioned with Scottish Ballet by Rosalind Nashashibi, and much more, at venues throughout Scotland's funkiest city. What's not to like? Various venues, 20 April to 7 May.


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March 31 2012

Spring arts calendar 2012

From Snow White to Jack White, and Cumbria to Cannes, the Observer's critics pick the season's highlights. What are you most looking forward to? Post your comments below

Download the spring arts calendar 2012

April

2 Pop Dr John The New Orleans legend decamps to Nashville to record with the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach; excellence ensues on the Locked Down LP.

4 Art Damien Hirst The world's richest living artist enjoys a major survey of more than 20 years of his work, including medicine cabinets, diamond skull and a certain preserved shark. Tate Modern, London until 9 September.

6 Film This Must Be the Place Sean Penn plays a retired rock star scouring America for the fugitive Nazi who tormented his father in Auschwitz. Paolo Sorrentino escapes from the art house in his first English-language film.

7 Theatre Where Have I Been All My Life? Following the success of London Road, her verbatim musical at the National, Alecky Blythe documents a local talent show for the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Until 28 April.

11 Art Hans-Peter Feldmann A retrospective for the German conceptual artist whose work since the 1950s has involved collecting and re-presenting everyday cultural artefacts. Serpentine Gallery, London until 3 June.

11 Dance A Streetcar Named Desire Scottish Ballet unite choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and theatre director Nancy Meckler in a new take on Tennessee Williams's psychodrama. Theatre Royal Glasgow until 14 April, and touring.

12 Theatre The Radicalisation of Bradley Manning Before he was a WikiLeaks whistleblower, Bradley Manning was a schoolboy in Wales, and this National Theatre of Wales production is staged in his old Haverfordwest school before transferring to two other Welsh venues. Until 28 April.

13 Theatre Wild Swans Jung Chang's international bestseller charting the incredible lives of three generations of women in China takes to the stage. Young Vic, London until 13 May.

16 Classical Bruckner Project Daniel Barenboim (conductor) and his Berlin Staatskapelle orchestra return to London for Bruckner's three final symphonies, 7, 8 and 9, paired with Barenboim as soloist in two Mozart piano concertos. At the Royal Festival Hall, London for three nights.

19 Dance Artifact Set to the music of Bach and danced here by the impeccable Royal Ballet of Flanders is the subversive new-dance master piece of the American choreographer William Forsythe. Sadler's Wells, London until 21 April.

20 Theatre Sea Odyssey The Sultan's Elephant entranced us in 2006; now Royal de Luxe take over Liverpool city centre with 50-foot marionettes for a street spectacular marking 100 years since the Titanic's maiden voyage. Until 22 April.

20 Art Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art More than 130 artists, including 2009 Turner prize-winner Richard Wright, show work over 18 days at this major visual art festival in Glasgow, now in its fifth edition. Until 7 May.

23 Pop Jack White Jack White's debut solo album, Blunderbuss, is every bit as tremendous as you would hope from this restless former Stripe. There's a new colour scheme – blue – and his touring outfit (coming to the UK 21-24 June) features one all-male band and an all-female counterpart. The album, though, doesn't need gimmicks to sell it. Replete with waltzes, ballads, pianos, bravura guitar solos and troublesome women, it finds the newly-divorced White on energetic, mischievous form.

25 Art Out of Focus Major show featuring 38 photographers, including Ryan McGinley, Mat Collishaw, John Stezaker and Yumiko Utsu, who challenge the received rules of the medium. Saatchi Gallery, London until 22 July.

27 Film Albert Nobbs In a role she created on stage 30 years ago, Glenn Close plays a cross-dressing hotel waiter in Victorian Dublin. Close also co-wrote the script with novelist John Banville. Both she and Janet McTeer were Oscar-nominated for the film.

28 Classical Monteverdi's Vespers 1610 The great Italian choral masterpiece associated with St Mark's, Venice takes over the galleries and balconies of Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow for full spatial effect. The Dunedin Consort hold court.

May

1 Classical Vale of Glamorgan Festival Taking place in spring not autumn for the first time, this contemporary music festival celebrates Gavin Bryars, Philip Glass at 75 and more, across several venues in Cardiff. Until 11 May.

2 Theatre The Rest is Silence Site-specific company dreamthinkspeak kick off this year's Brighton festival with a "meditation on Shakespeare's Hamlet". Expect labyrinthine adventure. Malthouse Estate Warehouse, Shoreham until 27 May.

3 Design Bauhaus: Art As Life A big show of a big school: before the Nazis closed it down, the Bauhaus led the way in defining modern architecture, design and art. Barbican, London until 10 August.

6 Pop Grimes Canadian synth darling Claire Boucher brings her Visions album – already one of the year's most talked-about – out to play in Bristol, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester. Until 10 May.

8 Theatre Babel Wildworks, the Cornish creators of last year's acclaimed Port Talbot production of The Passion starring Michael Sheen, stage an outdoor event inspired by the biblical story of Babel. A collaboration with four London theatres involving 500-plus people, this epic show explores what happens when the scattered tribes are called back. Caledonian Park, London N1 until 20 May.

10 Dance Snow White With costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier and music by Mahler, Angelin Preljocaj's darkly adult take on the Grimms' fairytale promises a very sophisticated pleasure indeed. Sadler's Wells, London until 12 May.

10 Pop The Great Escape This Brighton powwow has become a nigh-on unmissable appointment with every new band going. Until 12 May.

11 Film Dark Shadows In Tim Burton's film version of the camp gothic American TV sitcom, an 18th-century vampire (Johnny Depp) is unleashed on the year 1972.

12 Classical LSO and Valery Gergiev The London Symphony Orchestra and Valery Gergiev brave evening traffic to play Trafalgar Square for the first time with The Rite of Spring. "The acoustics will be a challenge," says Gergiev.

16 Film Cannes Film Festival Wes Anderson's new film Moonrise Kingdom opens the 65th festival. The Artist's silent march to Oscars success started at Cannes last year – will another winner be unearthed this time round? Until 27 May.

16 Art Bedwyr Williams: My Bad Biggest solo show to date for Williams, whose often hilarious work explores the absurdities of life in his native north Wales. At Ikon, Birmingham until 8 July.

18 Film The Dictator After Borat and Brüno – General Admiral Shabazz Aladeen. Sacha Baron Cohen's newest mock-doc character is the dictator of a fictional Middle Eastern state. Megan Fox appears as a concubine.

20 Art Photographers' Gallery Reopens London's biggest public photography gallery, recently relocated to Oxford Circus, celebrates its £8.9m facelift and extension with an Edward Burtynsky show, until 2 July.

23 Theatre Posh Laura Wade's 2010 Royal Court hit about an elitist Bullingdon Club-style dining institution at Oxford gets a West End transfer to the Duke of York's theatre, London. Until 4 August.

27 Classical King Priam A strong season at the Brighton festival (from 5 May) culminates in this rare chance to hear Tippett's King Priam in concert, performed by the Britten Sinfonia and Brighton Festival Chorus, conductor Sian Edwards.

31 Theatre Wah! Wah! Girls Love against the odds in London's East End drives Sadler's Wells' Bollywood-style musical at the Peacock theatre, directed by Kneehigh's Emma Rice. Until 23 June.

June

1 Design Serpentine Pavilion Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, the team who gave Beijing its Bird's Nest stadium, reunite to build the latest of the Serpentine's annual pavilions. Until 14 October.

1 Film Prometheus; Snow White and the Huntsman Beginning of the summer's blockbusters as Ridley Scott's hotly anticipated Alien prequel goes head-to-head with the Grimm Brothers reworking.

6 Dance Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch Month-long season of 10 works by the late, great German choreographer, each exploring a different world city. Barbican and Sadler's Wells, London. Until 9 July.

7 Classical Opera Holland Park Another mouth-watering seven-opera season opens with Lucia di Lamermoor. Also includes Gianni Schicchi, Eugene Onegin and the family-friendly Fantastic Mr Fox. Holland Park, London W8 until 4 August.

8 Pop No Direction Home New boutique festival from the End of the Road people bringing sounds to north Notts's Welbeck Estate. Richard Hawley, Gruff Rhys and Dirty Three headline. Until 10 June.

15 Film Rock of Ages This adaptation of the Broadway/West End smash, a musical constructed around rock anthems, stars a bewigged and mostly topless Tom Cruise as fictional headbanger Stacee Jaxx.

15 Pop Plan B in the Forest The Forestry Commission lures various artists into the trees every year, but urban crooner Ben Drew is probably the most surprising sylvan songsmith yet. Until 7 July.

18 Theatre Kiss Me, Kate Trevor Nunn returns to Chichester Festival theatre for its 50th anniversary, directing Cole Porter's feisty musical based on The Taming of the Shrew. Until 1 September.

19 Art Yoko Ono: To The Light Major London retrospective will include a project called Smile, in which Ono invites people worldwide to email a photograph of their own smile. Serpentine, London until 9 September.

21 Pop Bruce Springsteen The Boss has never been more pumped than on his recent album. Join his tour-cum-rally. Until 24 June

21 Theatre Lakes Alive Les Commandos Percus follow up the arrival of the Olympic torch in Windermere, Cumbria earlier that evening with On the Night Shift, a theatrical lakeside firework display set to music at Glebe recreation ground.

22 Classical Stour Music This tiny 'festival of music in East Kent' held in a beautiful church on the pilgrim route to Canterbury has lured star countertenor Andreas Scholl. Until 1 July.

22 Film Killer Joe Directed by William "The Exorcist" Friedkin, this dark, pulpy film about a murderous cop (Matthew McConaughey) was the talk of last year's Venice and Toronto festivals.

23 Pop Radio 1's Hackney Weekender Hackney's famed football fields play host to a 48-hour Premier league of pop. Jay-Z leads the roll call of international talent, with Lana Del Rey, Jack White and Azealia Banks in defence. The cream of British pop, R&B and hip-hop are represented too (Tinie Tempah, Florence Welch, Emeli Sandé). Best of all it's free. Hackney Marshes, London E9 until 24 June.

24 Pop Nicki Minaj With her Roman Reloaded LP fresh out of the blocks, hip-hop's firecracker is set to dazzle London, Birmingham and Manchester. Until 28 May.

25 Classical The Trojans Berlioz's ambitious masterpiece, conducted by Antonio Pappano and director David McVicar; starring Jonas Kaufmann, Anna Caterina Antonacci and Eva-Maria Westbroek. ROH's Olympic-season climax. Until 11 July.

25 Classical Dr Dee London premiere at ENO of Damon Albarn's masque-cum-opera about the mysterious Elizabethan magician-philosopher, directed by Rufus Norris with conductor Stephen Higgins. Until 7 July.

28 Art Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye The Norwegian artist's interest in photography and film-making is brought to the fore in this major reassessment of his work. Tate Modern, London until 14 October.

29 Film Friends With Kids In this sophisticated Allenesque New York comedy, actor Jennifer Westfeldt makes her debut as writer-director, co-starring opposite her long-time partner, Mad Men's Jon Hamm.

What are you looking forward to this spring? Post your cultural highlights in the comments section below


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'Another Marianne Faithfull lives inside my head'

The veteran singer on her new role as art curator, the Rolling Stones, and 'the Fabulous Beast'

You are curating an art exhibition at Tate Liverpool this month, DLA Piper Series: Innocence and Experience. Your connection with that city goes back to childhood?

I was there until I was six, so it was very formative, at least if you believe the Jesuits. I remember a lot of it, particularly my mother taking me to the docks to show me the big American liners; she would say to me: "That way is America." Which set something up for me for sure. I played Liverpool a lot as a performer on tour. And when I was there I would go to the Walker Art Gallery; I remember seeing Millais's wonderful Ophelia there [at an exhibition in 1967].

You put together the show with John Dunbar, your first husband, who ran the Indica gallery in Soho in the 60s…

The person who first showed me how to look at pictures was John, when he was at Cambridge and doing his degree. We went to Rome and Florence together. We spent a lot of afternoons in the Tate and the National back then. And so we had a fabulous time going through the Tate archives for this show.

The idea is that it almost becomes an autobiographical sketch of you?

What I hope people will be seeing is something like the inside of my head.

What will they see there? We have some wonderful William Blakes, Newton sitting on what looks like the moon. Blake was a guiding spirit for me for a long, long time. My father gave me Songs of Innocence and of Experience when I was a child, which gave me the title for one of my albums. I went on living by Blake.

I always liked that fragment of his : "What is the price of experience…?"

Yes, and, "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom." I'm not sure if I believe that any more. Is it true? It might be. He had vision. I am not in any way a visionary like that. I'm more a channel.

The exhibition will also include Richard Hamilton's picture of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser's 1967 drug bust, Swingeing London. You were there, of course. Does that feel like another life?

It is all very present. I look at the picture every day. I've been so glad Richard gave it to me. It has helped me a lot to see that period as art, rather than just personal trauma. I read a lot of books about those times, and these days they seem to be viewed as a disaster. I don't see it that way at all, though for me personally they were pretty rough.

Did you read Keith Richards's memoir?

I did. And I loved it. It rang true as Keith. Not that I agree with everything in it. Strangely, I am going to New York to do, among other things, a tribute show to the Rolling Stones at Carnegie Hall. With Ronnie Spector and Steve Earle and others. I will sing "Sister Morphine" at the very end.

Do you have any qualms about being in a Stones' tribute show?

Not really. There was a time I resented it because I felt I could have done anything, and just to be perceived as the creation of the Rolling Stones irritated me immensely. But there are worse things to be seen as, I suppose.

Things that seem tragic dramas when you are young seem less so when you look back?

Yes, you have to remember I was a completely insecure, self-centred, highly ambitious little girl.

Which period of your life do you think of as the happiest?

My childhood, and now. Because I have mastery. I am not drinking and not using drugs.

Do you have a religious impulse?

I do have a strong sense of God. It's impossible to explain what I mean when I say that, of course. I have to have a sense of something greater than myself to be able to stay sober. I have been in the programme for23 years but I am not 23 years sober. But I can't feel that it is all down to me, no.

You are a grandmother now?

I am. I'm 65. I have to take a lot more trouble physically. Before I spoke to you I did my 15 minutes on the treadmill. That's something I wouldn't have ever imagined. I do yoga. I do tai chi. I do a lot to keep my body and my spirit together so I can work. In the autumn I take up a position in Linz at the Opera House for three months, doing Brecht's Seven Deadly Sins, with full ballet costumes, everything.

Which of the sins do you feel you have explored most fully?

I've had a go at most, but in this piece Brecht turns them all upside down, so that lust becomes love. Pride becomes pride in your work. Envy is actually the hardest sin to make positive.

You have had more than your share of the male gaze over the years. Do you feel a bit liberated from that now?

I tried to ignore it most of the time. It's a mixed blessing but I do feel a bit liberated, although I make a great effort for my shows. A great effort to be Marianne Faithfull.

She's a creation as much as anything?

It is actually my name. It is me. But it hasn't felt like me for a long time. What has happened in the past 10 years or so, and what has been my goal for as long as I can remember, is to bring me and Marianne Faithfull into some semblance of harmony. It was her doing drugs and drinking, her inside my head, so it has been tough. The Fabulous Beast, that's what I call her.

Is that Fabulous Beast still whispering to you?

Less so. But she is very naughty. And doesn't believe anything of what I tell her is good for us. She just laughs at all that. She is not evil. She is naughty, and I shouldn't listen to her. I just have to be very careful all the time.

DLA Piper Series: Innocence and Experience – curated by Marianne Faithfull is at Tate Liverpool from 21 April to 2 September


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March 30 2012

Music Weekly podcast: Jeremy Deller recording bats and loving glam rock

Alexis and Kieran are joined this week by the Guardian's Michael Hann for a show that includes artist Jeremy Deller, singles club and Labrinth.

In the world of diamond encrusted skulls and unmade beds that is contemporary art, few people are as influenced by pop music as Turner prize winner Jeremy Deller – the artist who managed to combine acid house and brass bands. He talks to Alexis about the music he loves.

In singles club, where we run the rule over three new releases, we have tracks from Dexys Midnight Runners, Anthony 'Shake' Shakir and Mac Miller – whose 45 seconds of a woman panting has caused much debate.

Timothy McKenzie, otherwise known as songwriter and producer Labrinth, loved the idea of grime, but found it musically ignorant. So he started experimenting with a new blend that included church music and the sounds of his Nintendo. When Tinie Tempah came knocking on his studio door, everything clicked into place, he tells Kieran.

Thanks for listening, and also for your feedback on last week's show; please keep the comments coming. There is no Music Weekly podcast next week, but we'll return in a fortnight.



March 25 2012

This week's cultural highlights: Roberto Fonseca and Laura

Our critics' picks of this week's openings, plus your last chance to see and what to book now

• Which cultural events are in your diary this week? Tell us in the comments below

Opening this week

Theatre

I Dreamed a Dream
SuBo is played by Elaine C Smith in this new musical based on the life of the Britain's Got Talent sensation, who has given her personal endorsement to this money-spinner – sorry, show. Theatre Royal, Newcastle (0844 811 2121), until 31 March, then touring.

Fierce festival
Birmingham gets ready for boundary-busting performances from UK and international performers, including Ann Liv Young, Playgroup and Graeme Miller. The festival takes place in unusual spaces all across the city, including the soon to be demolished library and under Spaghetti Junction. Various locations, Birmingham, Thursday to 8 April.

Film

The Hunger Games (dir. Gary Ross)
Suzanne Collins's teen bestseller is turned into an exciting dystopian thriller. Jennifer Lawrence stars.

Dance

English National Ballet: Beyond Ballets Russes
The second programme of this ambitious mix of revivals and reinventions from the great Diaghilev legend. Coliseum London WC2 (0871-911 0200), 28 March to 1 April.

New Dance Commissions
Enterprising selection of new work commissioned by ROH2 from Sarah Dowling, Laila Diallo and Freddie Opoku-Addaie. Linbury Studio Theatre, London WC2 (020-7304 4000), 29-31 March.

Classical

Parsifal
Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Opera give concert performances of Wagner's final stage work, followed in Cardiff the next day by Mahler's Eighth Symphony, and in London by Verdi's Requiem. Millennium Centre, Cardiff (029 2063 6464), Saturday. Then touring to London and Birmingham until 6 April.

Pacifica Quartet
The US group return to complete their Shostakovich cycle with the Ninth to the 15th Quartets. Wigmore Hall, London W1 (020-7935 2141), 26 and 28-29 March.

Jazz

Roberto Fonseca
The piano star and Buena Vista sideman takes Cuban jazz and dance traditions and wrenches them into new identities – mixing in electronica with familiar guitar and percussion sounds, reconnecting Cuban music to traditional and contemporary Africa, and leading a thrilling band promoting his new Yo album. Barbican, London EC2 (020-7638 8891) Monday, then touring to 1 April.

Pop

Odd Future
Overhyped or hip-hop's big hope? Perhaps the response to the controversial LA rappers' first major label album, The OF Tape 2, will decide it. Tour begins at O2 Academy, Birmingham (0121-622 8250), 28 March.

Pulp
One-off Teenage Cancer Trust gig by beloved, reconstituted national treasures. Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0845 4015034), 31 March.

Visual art

Gillian Wearing
Private lives and public personas, false identities and intimate confessions are at the heart of Wearing's humane and humorous art. This major survey of the Turner-prize winning artist also includes new films and sculptures. Whitechapel gallery, London E1 (020-7522 7888), 28 March to 17 June.

Last chance to see

Theatre

Democracy
Cold war politics and flawed West German chancellor Willy Brandt are examined in Michael Frayn's intelligent 2003 play, which gets a masterly revival from Paul Miller. Crucible, Sheffield (0114-249 6000), until 31 March.

Uncle Vanya
Roger Allam, Dervla Kirwan and Timothy West lead the cast in the first production of the 50th Chichester festival season. With so many West End transfers (Sweeney Tood, Singing in the Rain and The Browning Version/South Downs), Jonathan Church's outfit should be enjoying a golden 50th birthday. Minerva, Chichester (01243 781312), 30 March to 28 April.

Film

Laura (dir. Otto Preminger)
This rereleased 1940s noir classic of obsession is a must-see. A cop becomes obsessed with the memory of Laura (Gene Tierney), a murdered ad executive.

Classical

The Rake's Progress
A brief run for David McVicar's coolly stylish new production for Scottish Opera, with Edgaras Montvidas as Tom Rakewell and Steven Page as Nick Shadow. Festival Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-529 6000), on 27, 29 and 31 March.

Jazz

Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet
Young American trumpeter Akinmusire made waves in 2011 for the remarkable purity of his tone, coupled with a punchy American postbop feel laid down by a powerful band of long-time friends. Another original, UK pianist Robert Mitchell, shares this tour. Ronnie Scott's, London W1 (020-7439 0747), 26 March, then touring until 29 March.

Pop

Feist
Canadian singer-songwriter is fantastic live, exploring darker, bleaker waters on recent album Metals. Tour ends 27 March at Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow (0844 847 2487).

Pokey LaFarge
Acclaimed St Louis country-blues and string-band revivalists do not exactly reinvent the wheel, but are a treat on stage. Tour ends at Concorde 2, Brighton (01273 673311), 28 March.

Book now

Theatre

What the Butler Saw
Sean Foley directs a revival of Joe Orton's dark farce, a Freudian nightmare involving cross-dressing, perversion and Sir Winston Churchill's penis. Omid Djalili plays Dr Rance, the government official sent to investigate dodgy dealings at a private psychiatric clinic. Vaudeville, London WC2 (0844 412 4663), 4 May to 25 August.

2008: Macbeth
Grzegorz Jarzyna's version of Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis was a wonder, and now he and Poland's TR Warszawa return to the Edinburgh international festival with a contemporary take on Shakespeare's play set in the Middle East. Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston (0131-473 2000), 11-18 August.

Gulliver's Travels
Romanian director Silviu Purcarete's production of Faust was quite something, certainly memorable for its excesses if not its content. Now EIF gets the premiere of his new version of Jonathan Swift's savage political satire. King's Theatre, Edinburgh (0131-473 2000), 17-20 August.

Film

Into the Abyss (dir. Werner Herzog)
Werner Herzog probes the dark heart of humanity and society with his death-row interviews. Why do people kill?

Dance

Royal Ballet of Flanders: Artifact
A rare UK showing for the first work created by William Forsythe when he was appointed director of the Frankfurt Ballet. Back in 1984, it set down a clear marker of Forsythe's postmodern ambitions, and it still looks subversive today. Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (0844 412 4300), from 19 April.

Classical

Bow Down
The Opera Group and London Sinfonietta combine for Frederic Wake-Walker's new production of Harrison Birtwistle and Tony Harrison's hauntingly unclassifiable 1980s theatre piece. Brighton festival, (01273 709709), 17-18 May; Norfolk and Norwich festival (01603 766400), 20-21 May.

Jazz

Cheltenham jazz festival
Guest director Jamie Cullum curates an all-star international jazz lineup, with artists including former Miles Davis producer/bassist Marcus Miller, guitarist Bill Frisell's Beautiful Dreamers trio, a new Radio 3 commission for UK piano giant John Taylor, cutting-edge US pianist Vijay Iyer with radical saxophonist Steve Lehman, a showcase for new musicians from Norway and much more. Montpellier Gardens, Gloucestershire (0844 880 8094), 2-7 May.

Pop

The Charlatans
Tim Burgess's Lambchop-assisted second solo album is more hotly anticipated than you might expect, but at these gigs the Charlatans play their Britpop-era hit album Tellin' Stories. Tour begins 8 June at Hammersmith Apollo, London (0844 844 4748).

Visual art

Hans-Peter Feldmann
Feldmann is a collector of everything from the contents of women's handbags to the views from hotel rooms, seascapes and snatched moments. The Dusseldorf-born artist is part installationist, part joker, part archaeologist of the fleeting moment. Serpentine Gallery, London W2 (020-7402 6075), 11 April to 3 June.


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