A special offer for New Statesman readers

Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel and The Pitmen Painters.

MONDRIAN || NICHOLSON: IN PARALLEL and The Pitmen Painters for £28.50!

***** Evening Standard
***** Daily Express
***** Mail on Sunday
***** Sunday Express
Winner of the Evening Standard Award for Best New Play

"A wonderful piece of theatre: comic, sad and stirring in the same breath"
Financial Times

Presented by Bill Kenwright, following celebrated seasons at the National Theatre and on Broadway, Lee Hall's The Pitmen Painters is currently enjoying a West End season, following a summer national tour.

Written by Lee Hall, creator of the worldwide sensation Billy Elliot, The Pitmen Painters has received huge critical acclaim and won the Evening Standard award for Best New Play.

In 1934, a group of Ashington miners hired a professor to teach an art appreciation evening class. Rapidly abandoning theory in favour of practice, the pitmen began to paint - prolifically. Within a few years avant-garde artists became their friends and their work was acquired by prestigious collectors; but every day they continued to work, as before, down the mine. The Pitmen Painters is highly amusing, deeply moving and always entertaining as it examines the lives of a group of ordinary men who do extraordinary things.

"Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel" explores the largely untold creative relationship between Piet Mondrian and Ben Nicholson during the 1930s. At the time the two artists were leading forces of abstract art in Europe. Their friendship culminated with Mondrian moving to London in 1938, at Nicholson's invitation, where the two worked in neighbouring Hampstead studios at the centre of a vibrant international community of avant-garde artists. This is a unique opportunity to experience some of the greatest works ever produced by these two exceptional artists.

Package deal includes top price ticket to The Pitmen Painters (normally £49.50) and admission to the Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery saving £27.00.

For more information and to book tickets visit www.LOVEtheatre.com/Pitmen or call 020 7907 7000.

The Pitmen Painters
Written by Lee Hall
Inspired by a book by William Feaver
Duchess Theatre, Catherine Street, London WC2

"Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel", until 20 May, www.courtauld.ac.uk/mondrian, Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London WC2

Terms and conditions apply. Package includes a top ticket to The Pitmen Painters and admission to the Mondrian/Ben Nicholson exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery. Offer is valid on all Monday-Friday performances until 6 April 2012. Subject to availability. Offer cannot be used retrospectively or in conjunction with any other discounts. A booking fee of £1.95 applies when booking by phone.

Read the New Statesman's review of Mondrian | Nicholson: In Parallel here.

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How Dame Vera Lynn was told to “posh her accent up”

Radio 2’s 100th-birthday tribute reveals how Lynn was forced to change her voice.

“I remember seeing her near an elephant, and this elephant rolled over a bit and she had to get out of the way . . .” Vic Knibb, the vice-chairman of the veterans’ group the Burma Star Association, was one of the thousands of British soldiers serving in the Far East during the Second World War who came across Vera Lynn in the jungle, singing from the back of a Jeep, accompanied by an out-of-tune piano.

Speaking in Radio 2’s celebration of the singer’s 100th birthday, Vera Lynn: the Sweetheart of the United Kingdom (Sunday 19 March, 8pm), Knibb and others recalled what it meant to them that Lynn travelled so far to perform for the so-called Forgotten Army in Burma. Unlike other entertainers, who stayed in Europe or visited only military hospitals in the UK, she deliberately went where few others did – where she felt she was needed by “the boys”.

The programme, which featured a rare interview with Lynn herself, was dominated by clips of her recordings from the Thirties and Forties. We heard frequent extracts from “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “We’ll Meet Again” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. The contrast between these two voices, separated by more than six decades, was the most arresting thing this otherwise pedestrian documentary had to offer. The now gravelly-voiced centenarian sang, in her youth, with a smooth, effortless-sounding tone and crystal-clear diction. But how did the cockney daughter of a plumber from East Ham end up singing with received pronunciation?

The answer, as ever in Britain, is class. Lynn had no formal musical training, and as she had been performing in working men’s clubs from the age of seven, she was considered closer to a musical-hall crooner than a “proper” singer. But with her small vocal range and flawless self-taught technique, she chose her own songs to suit her voice. The BBC, for which she made her hugely popular radio show Sincerely Yours, requested that she take elocution lessons to “posh her accent up” and even at one point took her show off air for 18 months. “Every­body’s Sweetheart” wasn’t immune from snobbishness, it seems. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 23 March 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump's permanent revolution