The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead

Theatre

Nosferatu, Barbican Centre, London EC2, 31 October - 3 November

Halloween may be over, but if you haven’t got your fill of scary thrills, head over to the Barbican for their current theatre production, Nosferatu. Performed by the multi-award winning Polish company TR Warszawa, who are rapidly gaining an international reputation for experimental theatre, this show takes a new interpretation of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula. In a production full of horror tropes - dry ice, billowing curtains and flashes of lightening, the production promises to seduce the audience “into a dream-like state”. Director Grzegorz Jarzyna is collaborating for the first time with avant-garde musician John Zorn in an attempt to explore “what lies between an idea and reality, between light and shade.”

Art

Seduced by Art: Photography Past & Present, National Gallery, London WC2, 31 October – 20 Jan 2013

Perhaps surprisingly the first major photography exhibition to come from the National Gallery, Seduced by Art, looks specifically at the influence of Fine Art traditions on photography. Spanning the early beginnings of photographic technology to its current digital phase, the show will juxtapose current photographers such as Sam Taylor-Wood and Gustave Le Grey alongside iconic paintings from the national gallery collection including Ingres and Degas. Divided into the themes of portraiture, still life, nudes and landscapes, the show demonstrates the continuation of an historic tradition which has been re-worked, re-interpreted, but still remains very much relevant to aesthetic judgements today.

Film

The Master,  Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson With: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams

This hugely anticipated film by renowned director Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood) could have scarcely been more hyped-up by its previews. Initial reviews have uniformly reduced critics to stutters as they attempt to articulate its power.   Joaquin Phoenix stars in what has been dubbed a "laceratingly powerful" performance alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in a story loosely inspired by the life of L Ron Hubbard. Essentially a  story of two sociopaths and the elusive American dream, the film has been hailed as “a supremely confident work from a unique film-maker”, which leaves viewers “utterly lost in its demagogic thrall”.

Music

London International Festival of Exploratory Music, Kings Place, London N1, 31 October – 3 November

For those who don’t like their music mainstream, LIFEM is a four day festival at Kings Place which self-professes to “push back boundaries, challenging audiences with bold musical initiatives and a rejection of expectations”. This year’s theme is "Sounds from the Arctic Cool". Featuring a line-up of Scandinavia's most cutting-edge musicians, including Biosphere, EF, Deaf Centre and Wimme Saari, this promises to be four days of dark, surreal sounds.

Festival

Day of the Dead, Old Vic Tunnels, London SE1, 31 October - 3 November

Appropriating the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead, the Old Vic Tunnels are being transformed into a four-day festival featuring music, art and theatre all to celebrate the eventual prospect of shuffling off this mortal coil. Featuring world music from Rodrigo y Gabriela alongside a host of stalls and bars selling Mexican street food and a liberal dose of tequila. New art commission enliven the tunnels with works from photographer Graciela Iturbide and the Le Gun collective, whilst families are also accounted for by Saturday’s children’s workshops.

Mexico City during the Day of the Dead. (Photo credit: ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
HELEN SLOAN / THE FALL 3 LTD
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The Fall is back - and once again making me weary

Five more episodes to go, after which its “feminist” writer (his word, not mine), Allan Cubitt, should pull the plug on it at last. Plus: Damned.

It is with much weariness that I return to The Fall (Thursdays, 9pm), the creepy drama that still doesn’t know whether it wants to be a horror-fest or a love story. I’ve written in the past about what I regard as its basic misogyny – to sum up, it seems to me to make a fetish of the violence committed against women, a preoccupation it pathetically tries to disguise by dint of its main character being a female detective – and I don’t propose to return to that theme now. However, in its early days, it was at least moderately gripping. Now, though, it appears to be recovering from some kind of nervous breakdown. If in series two the plot was wobbling all over the place, series three has misplaced the idea of drama altogether. Nothing is happening. At all.

To recap: at the end of the last series, Paul Spector, aka the Belfast Strangler (Jamie Dornan), had been shot while in police custody, somewhat improbably by a man who blames him for the demise of his marriage (oh, that Spector were only responsible for breaking up a few relationships). On the plus side for his supposed nemesis, DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson), before he fell he led them to Rose Stagg, the ex-girlfriend he’d locked in the boot of a car some days previously, and she is going to live. On the minus side, Spector’s injuries are so bad, it’s touch and go whether he’ll survive, and so Gibson may never see him brought to justice. Of course, the word “justice” is something of a red herring here.

The real reason she wants Spector to live is more dubious. As she stared at his body in the ICU, all tubes and monitors, her expression was so obviously sexual – her mouth opened, and stayed that way, as her eyes ran over every part of his body – that I half expected her to reach out and stroke him. Just in time for this nocturnal visit, she’d slipped into another of her slinky silk blouses that look like poured cream. (Moments earlier – think Jackie Kennedy in 1963 – she’d still been covered in her love object’s blood.)

The entire episode took place at the hospital, police procedural having morphed suddenly into Bodies or Cardiac Arrest. Except, this was so much more boring and cliché-bound than those excellent series – and so badly in need of their verisimilitude. When I watch The Fall, I’m all questions. Why doesn’t Stella ever tie her hair back? And why does she always wear high heels, even when trying to apprehend criminals? For how much longer will the presumably cash-strapped Police Service of Northern Ireland allow her to live in a posh hotel? Above all, I find myself thinking: why has this series been so acclaimed? First it was nasty, and then it was only bad. Five more episodes to go, after which its “feminist” writer (his word, not mine), Allan Cubitt, should join Gibson in the ICU, where together they can ceremonially pull the plug on it at last.

Can Jo Brand do for social workers in her new comedy, Damned, what she did a few years ago for geriatric nurses in the brilliant Getting On? I expect she probably can, even though this Channel 4 series (Tuesdays, 10pm), co-written with Morwenna Banks and Will Smith, does have an awfully inky heart. Hungry children, drug-addict parents, a man who can go nowhere without his oxygen tank: all three were present and correct when Rose (Brand) went to visit a client who turned out to be a woman who, long ago, had nicked her (Rose’s) boyfriend. Ha ha? Boohoo, more like.

Damned is basically The Office with added family dysfunction. Al (Alan Davies) is a hen-pecked wimp, Nitin (Himesh Patel) is a snitch, and Nat (Isy Suttie) is the stupidest and most annoying temp in the Western world. This lot have two bosses: Martin (Kevin Eldon), a kindly widower, and Denise (Georgie Glen), the cost-cutting line manager from hell. And Rose has a plonker of an ex-husband, Lee (Nick Hancock). “I’ve been invited to the Cotswolds for the weekend,” he told her, trying to wriggle out of looking after the children. “Is that why you look like a knob?” she replied.

Jerky camerawork, naturalistic acting, a certain daring when it comes to jokes about, say, race: these things are pretty familiar by now, but I like it all the same.

Rachel Cooke trained as a reporter on The Sunday Times. She is now a writer at The Observer. In the 2006 British Press Awards, she was named Interviewer of the Year.

This article first appeared in the 29 September 2016 issue of the New Statesman, May’s new Tories