Review | The Loneliness of the Soul at The Royal Academy...

I have written about Tracey Emin many times and have always felt that her self-absorption and solipsism undermined her art. So I was sceptical as I got myself along - mask-protected - for my socially distanced visit to the Royal Academy to see The Loneliness of the Soul, a show in which she has double billing with Edvard Munch. What hubris, I thought! She’s bound to be dwarfed by the master of angst. To be the junior partner. The also-ran. This, after all, is the [...]

Review | Calling Out the Destruction: Collected Non-Fiction Meditations on Violence...

Karl R De Mesa’s collection. despite belonging to a very different genre, reminded me of John Wayne’s classic Western movie True Grit (1969). It places conceptions of mettle, both physical and emotional, under a high-intensity microscope. In examining the nuances of grit, violence and determination, the Filipino author and reporter digs deep beneath the lazy, surface-level musings of an all too modern journalism. His profiles of mixed martial artists (MMA) such as [...]

Review | The Assignment by Liza M. Wiemer

Liza M. Wiemer’s novel, The Assignment, is a frighteningly realistic portrayal of modern antisemitism in a small-town community that blurs the lines between past and present, fiction and reality. The novel is a fictionalised account of a real assignment that is given to students, which instructs them to debate the Final Solution, the Nazi’s plan for genocide of the Jewish people. When students Logan March and Cade Crawford protest holding the debate [...]

Review | Artemisia by Anna Banti

On 4 August 1944, as the Nazi occupation of Italy was coming to an end, the German forces evacuating Florence unleashed a final barrage of destruction, deploying mines across the city to bring down all but one of the historic bridges which had lined the River Arno for centuries. The blasts brought down many of the houses on each side of the river, including the house of writers Anna Banti and Roberto Longhi. Buried among the rubble of the house was the near-completed [...]

Review | Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold by Virago Press

Hag is an anthology of stories responding to classic folk tales from the British Isles, penned by some of the most exciting women writing in Britain and Ireland today. Originally conceived as an Audible podcast, the book version from Virago Press also has two new stories as well as copies of the original tales on which they are based. Daisy Johnson starts Hag off with a story that poses the question at the heart of any retelling: Is it mine to tell? [...]

Review | Outsiders: A Short Story Anthology by 3 of Cups...

‘We all secretly see ourselves as outsiders in one way or another.’ This, argues Alice Slater, editor of new anthology Outsiders from 3 Of Cups Press, is why readers are attracted to characters who do not fit in. But the very fact that the experience is universal exposes the paradox of the ‘outsider’ label. If we are all outsiders, then none of us are. The outsider then must mean something different to different people. Often, an outcast narrator, as Slater says, can be a representative for [...]

Review | Sleepless: A Musical Romance at Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre

Sleepless: A Musical Romance, based on the classic nineties film Sleepless in Seattle starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, had its official opening night at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre last night (01 September). Originally slated to premiere in March earlier this year, the show has the unenviable task of serving as an experiment for theatre re-openings across the country, with social distancing still a specified requirement for indoor venues [...]

Review | The Dark Nest by Sue Harper

Sue Harper’s new collection of warped, modern fairy tales, The Dark Nest, updates classic characters – from European folklore to Wonder Woman – for a contemporary audience interested in the macabre and the taboo. The book is twisted but amusing: a journey into the quirks of fear and human desire. Kafkaesque transformation, of people and the worlds they inhabit, is a recurring theme in Harper’s work. Instead of men waking up from long slumbers to find they have turned into insects, the living mortify and the dead begin to dance. In the story ‘Graisaille’, the narrator is  ‘frozen and immobile’ like a corpse, while the dead rise up in  ‘an ecstasy [...]

Review | Wasted at the Southwark Playhouse

A grungy rock musical about the Brontës and their challenging lives, battling against addiction, disease and poverty, promises to be an exhilarating take on this famous family. Bleak, poverty-stricken Yorkshire becomes a stark, wooden platform that stages a series of powerful rock ballads. With music by Christopher Ash and book and lyrics by Carl Miller, Wasted’s undeniably talented cast have the potential to create something really exciting, but sadly, the production’s [...]

Review | Emma Rice’s Wise Children at Bristol Old Vic, 9...

Emma Rice’s stage adaptation of Wise Children, Angela Carter’s final novel, is raunchy, colourful and garish. We have come to expect nothing less from the acclaimed director, whose bold approach proved too much for theatrical conservatives during her spell as Artistic Director at Shakespeare's Globe. In this first production from her new theatre company – also named ‘Wise Children’ - Rice’s talent explodes into an all-singing, all-dancing drama, with high kicks, sex and scandal galore [...]

Review | A Monster Calls at The Old Vic, 5-11 June...

This stunning Old Vic production, devised from the best-selling YA novel by Patrick Ness, hits so many emotional notes; it left me in bits. In its honest depiction of illness and grief, A Monster Calls is a timely production to stream. Conor, while coming to terms with his mum’s cancer, must struggle with school bullies, falling out with his best friend, and his dad moving to America with his new family. It is a lot to tackle in under two hours, but the play is well-paced and [...]

Review | This House, National Theatre at Home

Undeniably, the UK has experienced a turbulent political era in the last five years, but it certainly meets its match in the five running from 1974 to 1979. From fistfights in parliament, to faked deaths, to MPs brought in to vote from their hospital beds, this period saw it all. In the critically acclaimed This House, playwright James Graham and director Jeremy Herrin masterfully capitalise on parliament’s real-life melodramas, creating an accessible political drama exploding with tension and laughter [...]

Review | A Luminous Republic & Such Small Hands by Andrés...

Andrés Barba’s ghostly novella Such Small Hands met with resounding critical success in its native Spain, as well as in the UK and US with English translations by Lisa Dillman, in 2017. Darkly compelling, it was lauded for its unsettling plot and baroque descriptions, blending conventions from Greek tragedy and Gothic literature [...]

Review | Wing by Matthew Francis

No sooner than I started reading Wing, Matthew Francis’s latest collection of nature poems, did I want to read it out loud to the nearest person who would listen. ‘Longhouse Autumn’, the first, is a pungent broth of imagery, stuffed with suety metaphors: a remote Welsh beach is covered with ‘pick-and-mix shingle’, stippled with the ‘semolina and jam’ of pigeon droppings, concealing a ‘leathery mummified dogfish.’ [...]

Review | The Anointed by Michael Arditti

For contemporary fiction to stay pertinent in the twenty-first century, it must continue to do what great novelists have always striven to do: challenge, interpret, and risk offence. Michael Arditti’s new novel The Anointed challenges the ultimate orthodoxy, the Bible – in particular, the ancient tales of the Old Testament, which have endured for thousands of years, despite their capriciousness and morals archaic to the modern reader [...]

Review | Zonal by Don Paterson & If All the World...

At first glance, Zonal looks like a change of direction for Don Paterson. He made his name as a colloquial formalist, someone who could make rhyme and metre feel like the natural way of writing poetry in English. In this book, the carefully managed forms that dominated his work till now have been replaced by a longer, looser and less metrical line. [...]

Review | Our Death by Sean Bonney

Sean Bonney died in Berlin last November at the age of fifty, a couple of months after the publication of Our Death. The collection is a follow-up to his well-received Letters against the Firmament, described by Bonney, in an interview with BOMB magazine, as ‘open letters to the poetry community about the political situation in Britain’. Our Death expands on these epistolary poems: loose translations of the Greek poet Katerina Gogou appear alongside other revelatory material in both prose and verse form. The tone is bleak, drenched in premonitions of death, yet utterly gripping. [...]

Review | Young Rembrandt & Nicolaes Maes: Dutch Master of...

The similarities between the life paths of the 17th century Dutch painters Nicolaes Maes (1634-1693) and Rembrandt (1606-1669) are intriguing. Both grew up in small town Holland, both were apprenticed to local painters at an early age, both moved to Amsterdam to work with a master, both returned to their home towns to perfect their own style, both ended their lives in Amsterdam to which each had returned as their careers began to burgeon [...]

Review | ‘Sleepless’ and ‘If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller’...

The figure is wearing pyjamas and a pensive expression. He juggles, or simply tries to catch, a piece of falling fruit, the parent of which coils its leaves against a clouded orange backdrop. He is the subject of A Dream (2019), one of a series of paintings by Düsseldorf-based artist Lenz Geerk. Sleepless, as the name suggests, is the result of its creator’s insomnia, and is one of two exhibitions at the newly-launched Mamoth contemporary gallery in Bloomsbury [...]

Review | Vital Stream by Lucy Newlyn

For a long time, William Wordsworth had little interest in the sonnet form. ‘I used to think it egregiously absurd,’ he claimed in an 1822 letter to Walter Savage Landor, 'though the greatest poets since the revival of literature have written in it’. If his origin story is to be believed, 1802 was the turning point, when his sister Dorothy read him some of Milton’s sonnets. Struck by their ‘dignified simplicity’ and ‘majestic harmony’, William ‘took fire’, and produced ‘three Sonnets the same afternoon’. He would go on to write no fewer than 523 over the course of his career [...]

Review | Home Farm by Janet Sutherland

Hugh DunkerleyHome FarmDivided into seven sections, this moving and formally restless collection delves into the life of the farm in Wiltshire where Janet Sutherland...

Review | It still is as it always was by Kalliopi...

Hosting Kalliopi Lemos and Nancy Atakan’s first ever collaborative exhibition, the neutral space of Pi Gallery wears its adornments well this season. When you walk in, the first thing that catches your eye is an installation composed of two wrought-iron mannequins. Both are naked but wear elaborate gold necklaces, inspired by Ottoman designs, Byzantine armour, as well as a loosely shared cultural experience between the two artists [...]

Review | Europa 28, edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleaves

Edited by Sophie Hughes and Sarah Cleaves, Europa 28, published by Comma Press, brings together 28 women - a group of artists, writers, scientists and entrepreneurs - to share their perspectives on Europe and its future. Taking its name after the myth of Europa, the anthology comprises essays, short stories and think pieces on this theme. In her introduction, Bates bluntly states that 'Women see things differently.' This is perhaps a understatement [...]

Review | The Sweet Indifference of the World by Peter Stamm

Christoph and Magdalena. Chris and Lena. Peter Stamm’s latest novel, The Sweet Indifference of the World, is a short, sophisticated tale for the post-truth era, in which four identities become irreparably intertwined. Our narrator, the middle-aged Christoph, invites a young woman named Lena to meet him in a Swedish cemetery: ‘I hadn’t left any number or address, only a time and a place and my first name: Please come to Skogskyrkogården tomorrow at two [...]

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