The Friday Arts Diary

Our Cultural Picks for the Week Ahead.


Tate Britain, London SW1, Has the Film Already Started?, until 26 February
A series of galleries illuminating ways in which notions of performance have been expressed in the art of the past 30 years.


Lyric Hammersmith, London W6, Lyric Comedy Night, 26 February
Hosted by John Maloney, this regular Sunday Night Comedy slot features Mark Thomas, Andrew O'Neill, Catie Wilkins and Doc Brown.


Rose Theatre, London SE1, The Merchant of Venice, until 26 February
This modern-dress version sets Shakespeare's dark comedy in the contemporary London banking scene as it faces meltdown.


Tate Britain, London SE1, English National Ballet, from 27 February
In the Tate's Duveen Galleries, for a week, the English National Ballet celebrates the Tate's current Picasso xxhibition, Picasso and Modern British Art.


St John's, Smith Square, London SW1, Schwanengesang, 28 February
Performing alongside pianist Joseph Middleton, Matthew Rose sings Schubert's final song-cycle. Recently described by The Times as "the cream of a new generation", Middleton studied piano at the Royal Academy of Music on an EMI Scholarship, followed by a residency at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

Show Hide image

Hillary and the Viking: dramatising life with the Clintons

August radio should be like a corkboard, with a few gems pinned here and there. Heck, Don’t Vote for Him is one.

Now is the season of repeats and stand-in presenters. Nobody minds. August radio ought to be like a corkboard – things seemingly long pinned and faded (an Angela Lansbury doc on Radio 2; an adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor on Radio 4 Extra) and then the occasional bright fragment. Like Martha Argerich playing Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 at the Albert Hall (Prom 43, 17 August).

But on Radio 4, two new things really stand out. An edition of In the Criminologist’s Chair (16 August, 4pm) in which the former bank robber (and diagnosed psychopath) Noel “Razor” Smith recalls, among other memorable moments, sitting inside a getaway car watching one of his fellows “kissing his bullets” before loading. And three new dramas imagining key episodes in the Clintons’ personal and political lives.

In the first (Heck, Don’t Vote for Him, 6 August, 2.30pm), Hillary battles with all the “long-rumoured allegations of marital infidelity” during the 1992 Democratic primaries. Fenella Woolgar’s (brilliant, unburlesqued) Hillary sounds like a woman very often wearing a fantastically unhappy grin, watching her own political ambitions slip through her fingers. “I deserve something,” she appeals to her husband, insisting on the position of attorney general should he make it to the top – but “the Viking” (his nickname at college, due to his great head of hair) is off, gladhanding the room. You can hear Woolgar’s silent flinch, and picture Hillary’s face as it has been these past, disquieting months, very clearly.

I once saw Bill Clinton speak at a community college in New Jersey during the 2008 Obama campaign. Although disposed not to like him, I found his wattage, without question, staggering. Sweeping through the doors of the canteen, he amusedly removed the microphone from the hands of the MC (a local baseball star), switched it off, and projected for 25 fluent minutes (no notes). Before leaving he turned and considered the smallest member of the audience – a cross-legged child clutching a picture book of presidents. In one gesture, Clinton flipped it out of the boy’s hands, signed the cover – a picture of Lincoln – and was gone.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 July 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Summer Double Issue