What to see this week in the UK | Culture
Five of the best … films
Pain and Glory (15)
(Pedro Almodóvar, 2019, Spa) 113 mins
After a series of minor-key works, Almodóvar returns with a bang with this poignant, semi-autobiographical study of a film director on the verge. Antonio Banderas plays Salvador Mello, the Spanish auteur’s proxy, whose career is on hiatus while he comes to terms with back pain and depression – forcing him to reflect on the highs and lows of his past.
Hail Satan? (15)
(Penny Lane, 2019, US) 95 mins
The question mark is vital to this study of the Satanic Temple, a nontheistic religious group co-founded in 2013 by the sardonic Lucien Greaves. While appearing to promote satanic worship, the temple is more of a situationist prankster set-up, with designs on keeping the separation of church and state in an increasingly right-wing, evangelical America.
(Christian Petzold, 2018, Ger/Fra) 102 mins
Since 2000, Germany’s Christian Petzold has been steadily carving out a solid and diverse body of work. His latest might possibly be his best, a hauntingly strange and subversive updated adaptation of Anna Seghers’s 1942 novel – a WW2 movie in modern dress – that sees a German refugee (Franz Rogowski) assuming a dead man’s identity in a bid to flee occupied France.
Blinded By the Light (12A)
(Gurinder Chadha, 2019, UK) 117 mins
Journalist Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir Greetings from Bury Park: Race, Religion and Rock’n’Roll is the loose inspiration for this story of a British-born teen from a Pakistani family whose ascent into adulthood is precipitated by the discovery of Bruce Springsteen. The musical numbers are often cheesy, and the period detail is full-on 80s kitsch, but newcomer Viveik Kalra makes a charming, guileless lead.
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (18)
(Quentin Tarantino, 2019, US) 161 mins
Tarantino’s surprise box-office hit finds the director telling the interweaving stories of TV western star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), his stuntman Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and neighbour Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). Sparks fly in the controversial climax, but it’s a freewheeling trip through Hollywood life in 1969, before Nixon, Vietnam and Charles Manson took the city’s innocence away.
Five of the best … rock & pop
One Africa Music Fest
Back for a third year, London’s celebration of all things Afrobeats offers up a stellar lineup of the genre’s best exponents including pop crossover Stefflon Don , whose varied career has seen her work with everyone from the likes of Wiley to Craig David and Halsey. Other performers on the night include Burna Boy, Sneakbo, 2Face and Kojo Funds.
The SSE Arena, Wembley, Saturday 24 August
Manchester Psych Fest
Promising to bring together “the strange, the far out, and the open minded”, this Manchester-based festival is a celebration of excess both musically, sartorially and in terms of hairstyles. Courtney Barnett, Temples and Goat Girl are the big-ish names, but keep an eye and ear out for the excellently monikered Bonnacons of Doom.
Various venues, Manchester, Saturday 24 August
End of the Road
Nope, even though it seemed to start nine months ago, festival season isn’t over yet. The last of the major, possibly rain-sodden music showcases in the UK returns with an eclectic lineup ranging from pop oddballs Metronomy, to purveyors of spaced-out epics Spiritualized and alt-R&B maverick Serpentwithfeet. There’s also an area called Healing Gardens, in case it all gets too much.
Salisbury, Thursday 29 August to 1 September
Who can forget the time when pop was ruled by Bedingfields Daniel and Natasha? Halcyon days and no mistake. Well, almost nine years after her last album, Natasha’s back with a one-off live show ahead of her anticipated fourth album, Roll With Me. Further proof of its time capsule-like quality comes with the fact it was produced by early 00s angst enabler Linda Perry. Still, Unwritten was amazing, wasn’t it?
Islington Assembly Hall, N1, Wednesday 28 August
Louis Moholo-Moholo’s Five Blokes
South African drumming legend Louis Moholo-Moholo’s nonchalant moniker for his Five Blokes band disguises the exhilarating power and soul of their hard-grooving energies and uncanny collective spirit. Star saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings and Jason Yarde, and the exciting piano/drums pairing of Alexander Hawkins and John Edwards, join Moholo-Moholo for this OTO residency.
Thursday 29 & Friday 30 August, Cafe Oto, E8
Three of the best … classical concerts
Scenes from Comus
The first performance of Scenes from Comus at the 1965 Proms signalled Hugh Wood’s emergence as a major British composer. This hybrid work – part cantata, part symphonic poem – sets passages from Milton’s masque in a score that juxtaposes passages of lush, sensuous beauty with moments of intense physical excitement. But despite its initial success, performances have remained rare; this revival by Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra – as part of an all-British programme that also includes Elgar’s choral work, The Music Makers – is not be missed.
Royal Albert Hall, SW7, Thursday 29 August
The visit to the Proms by Orchestre de Paris and its director Daniel Harding gives UK audiences a first chance to hear something of Jörg Widmann’s debut opera, premiered in Munich in 2012. Babylon is a modern retelling of the story of the ancient Mesopotamian kingdom, the Tower of Babel that was built there and the chaos that followed, before order is finally imposed. In the orchestral suite, says Widmann: “You can hear a linguistic confusion … which could only be heard in Babylon, and which can be heard today.”
Royal Albert Hall, SW7, Monday 26 August
Amy Beach, who died in 1944 at the age of 77, is generally recognised as the US’s first significant female composer, and one of the first to have trained entirely in her home country, where her music is performed far more regularly than on this side of the Atlantic. Beach’s only opera, completed in 1932 but never performed in her lifetime, gets a rare British staging this week as part of Grimeborn 2019, directed by Emma Jude Harris.
Arcola Theatre, E8, Thursday 29 to 31 August
Five of the best … exhibitions
You cannot ignore Hirst’s big painted bronze statues that show people and animals inside out. He is trying to make you look – and he succeeds. These lurid and comic sculptures deal with the most profound themes of life and death. A blot on the landscape or accessible artistic genius? Either way, this park is a great day out.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, nr Wakefield, to 29 September
Bright and breezy paintings with an innocent eye for everyday sights make the art of Denmark’s Tal R accessible and easy to enjoy in between an ice-cream and the arcades on Hastings seafront. His exhibition, in a space surrounded by picturesque reminders of the town’s fishing heritage, includes childlike images of boats and the sea.
Hastings Contemporary, to 13 October
Leonardo da Vinci
Forget Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi, which sold in 2017 for a record $450m. Ignore his Mona Lisa, even. Those paintings only hint at the breadth of his mind. The most intimate encounter you can have with the Renaissance polymath who died 500 years ago is to get close to his drawings, and this exhibition offers a superb selection. Marvel at his anatomical studies and magical maps. And wonder why they all belong to the Queen.
Queen’s Gallery, SW1, to 13 October
Kiss My Genders
This beautiful exhibition shows why humans need art. Its exploration of gender-fluid creativity since the 1960s is full of images that feel essential – because the identity of the artist is in them. From the literally self-centred soft pornography of French pioneer Pierre Molinier to the moving portraits of Catherine Opie, it’s a carnival of provocation and courage. The work of Luciano Castelli – art’s answer to glam rock in the 70s – is especially stunning.
Hayward Gallery, SE1, to 8 September
GCHQ has opened its archives for this survey of cyphers, code breaking and spying since the first world war, so don’t expect a radical critique of the security state. However it does cover the Snowden revelations (and their portrayal by Banksy) as well as the strange story of Britain’s cold war spy satellite. There is plenty of spy tech on show including the Nazi Enigma machine, its rivals, and the story of how Alan Turing out-thought it.
Science Museum, SW7, to 23 February
Five of the best … theatre shows
A Very Expensive Poison
Lucy Prebble is the playwright behind Enron and The Effect. Her writing is always theatrically explosive and deeply considered, playful yet profound. Starring MyAnna Buring and Tom Brooke, Prebble’s latest play draws on Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s book, and is about the poisoning of former KGB whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko in London, 2006.
Old Vic, SE1, to 5 October
When a cast includes stage stars Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings, the play itself is almost irrelevant. But Simon Woods’s new work sounds interesting. It is set in the late 80s and is about a Tory politician and his wife of 30 years whose blissful marriage isn’t nearly as idyllic as it seems. It’s directed by Simon Godwin, whose shows always feel pin-sharp.
National Theatre: Lyttelton, SE1, to 25 November
John Osborne’s classic play has been given a new twist by Sean O’Connor. The Entertainer originally took place in the 50s but O’Connor has relocated the story about a fading musical hall entertainer to the 80s, against the backdrop of the Falklands war. Shane Richie plays washed-up showman Archie Rice, quite literally out of step with the times in which he lives. Diana Vickers and Sara Crowe co-star.
Curve Theatre, Leicester, Tuesday 27 to 31 August, then touring
Ben Jonson’s rowdy comedy is rarely revived, but it is a fantastic panoramic of 17th-century life in London. The play covers one day at the notorious Bartholomew Fair, which used to be hugely popular – until the Victorians shut it down. The whole of London life is here: fraudsters, pickpockets, esteemed judges and dodgy tradesmen. Blanche McIntyre directs, and the play will be staged at the candlelit Sam Wanamaker Playhouse.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, SE1, to 12 October
Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation
Tim Crouch co-wrote recent TV series Don’t Forget the Driver – but he’s been writing compelling theatre for eons. His shows often seem simple yet manage to pull the audience into a fascinating theatrical game. In his latest play, Crouch himself stars as a mysterious cult-leader who is here to save us – if only we’re willing to follow him? The show closes in Edinburgh this weekend but transfers to The Royal Court in September.
The Studio, Edinburgh, Saturday 24 August
Three of the best … dance shows
Juliet & Romeo
Lost Dog’s brilliant Juliet & Romeo ends its national tour at the Edinburgh fringe. Director-performer Ben Duke has created a piece of clever, funny, perceptive dance-theatre that reimagines Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a pair of jaded fortysomethings whose marriage is on the rocks. Catch it while you can.
Dance Base, Edinburgh, Saturday 24 & Sunday 25
Much flinging and catching, spinning and tumbling in this inventive multi-award-winning show from Adelaide circus crew Gravity & Other Myths. With a stripped-back approach, it’s all about the connection between the performers – not to mention their sheer strength.
Underbelly, Edinburgh, Saturday 24 to Monday 26 August
Un Poyo Rojo
A hit at 2017’s Edinburgh fringe, this virtuosic piece of comedy-dance from Argentina gets another welcome airing. In a men’s locker room, duo Alfonso Barón and Luciano Rosso embark on an hour of wacky antics, one-upmanship and wrestling, all while wearing tiny shorts.
Zoo Southside, Edinburgh, Saturday 24 to Monday 26 August
Composite: WireImage; Science Museum; Jay Brooks; Mia Mala McDonald