Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Exhibition

Murder in the Library, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1, 18 Jan – 12 May 

The British Library’s new exhibition about crime writing, which accounts for approximately a third of all British fiction books, will take you on a captivating journey through the evolution of this popular genre. It will explore the genre's origins in the early 19th century through to contemporary "Nordic Noir", without forgetting the most prominent crime writers including Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle.

This fascinating exhibition will showcase manuscripts, books, rare audio recordings, artworks, as well as intriguing artefacts from the library's British and North American collections.

Classical Music

The Opus Ones, Peter Donohoe, Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry, 16 January

Warwick Arts Centre at the University of Warwick invites world renowned British pianist Peter Donohoe to take to its stage with a performance of music from the early part of the careers of some of the best known composers. Donohoe has devised an evening devoted to the works of Tchaikovsky, Bartók, Prokofiev, Schumann and Berg.

The audience is promised “power, tenderness, and the perennially fresh touch of one of the supreme virtuosos of our time”. Donohoe begins the evening with a pre-concert talk.

Comedy

Work In Progress, Sean Lock, Leicester square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, Leicester Square, London WC2, 11 Jan – 16 Jan (except 14 Jan)

Sean Lock is taking a break from his  television appearances to begin a stand-up comedy tour. The shows at the Leicester Square Theatre are in preparation for a national tour which will commence later this year. The comedian, whose TV credits include team captain on 8 Out Of 10 Cats as well as QI and Argumental, will perform a string of shows at this venue in January and February.

Music

The Johnny Cash Story, The Lowry Theatre, 8 The Quays, Salford, 13 January

For fans of the film Walk The Line, this one-night-only show is unmissable. Roger Dean, who has been playing Johnny Cash for most of his life after first performing The Tennessee Flat Top Box on BBC television aged 14, will be entertaining with a collection of the star’s best known songs. From Big River to Ring of Fire and I Walk The Line, the show charts Cash’s rise to fame from humble Arkansas beginnings.

Theatre

The Silence of the Sea, Trafalgar Studios, 14 Whitehall, London SW1, 14 Jan – 2 Feb (previews start from 10 January)

A novella originally written by Vercors, The Silence of the Sea has been reimagined by Anthony Weigh for the stage. A soldier is sent to the home of an old man and his niece. The pair, with no option but to allow him in, resist him with a silence that will become their most forceful strength.

This “exquisitely constructed human drama”, whose cast features Finbar Lynch among others, sheds new light on the original play and observes “an excruciating dilemma faced by both the occupier and the occupied”.

Sean Lock, whose pre-tour warm-up gigs will begin this week in London. Photograph: Getty Images.
Don't Tell the Bride YouTube screengrab
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How did Don’t Tell the Bride lose its spark?

Falling out of the love with reality TV’s wedding planning hit.

Steph, 23, from Nottinghamshire, is standing in a drizzly field wearing a wedding dress. Her betrothed, Billy, is running around in a tweed flat cap trying to make some pigs walk in “a continuous parade”. A man from Guinness World Records is watching with a clipboard, shaking his head. Bridesmaids gaze sorrowfully into the middle distance, each in a damp pig onesie.

Thus ends the second wedding in E4’s new series of Don’t Tell the Bride – and the programme’s integrity with it.

When the classic programme, which follows grooms attempting to plan their wedding (punchline: human males doing some organising), began a decade ago on BBC Three, it had the raw spark of unpredictability. For eight years, the show did nothing fancy with the format, and stuck with pretty ordinary couples who had few eccentric aspirations for their wedding day.

This usually resulted in run-of-the-mill, mildly disappointing weddings where the worst thing that happened would be a reception at the nearest motorway pub, or an ill-fitting New Look low heel.

It sounds dull, but anyone who has religiously watched it knows that the more low-key weddings expose what is truly intriguing about this programme: the unconditional commitment – or doomed nature – of a relationship. As one of the show’s superfans told the Radio Times a couple of years ago:

“It’s perfect, and not in an ironic or post-ironic or snarky way. The format has the solemn weight of a ceremony . . . Don’t Tell the Bride is not about ruined weddings, it’s about hope. Every wedding is a demonstration of how our ambitions curve away from our abilities. It’s a show about striving to deserve love and how that’s rarely enough.”

It also meant that when there were bombshells, they were stand-out episodes. High drama like Series 4’s notorious Las Vegas wedding almost resulting in a no-show bride. Or heart-warming surprises like the geezer Luke in Series 3 playing Fifa and guzzling a tinny on his wedding morning, who incongruously pulls off a stonking wedding day (complete with special permission from the Catholic Church).

For its eight years on BBC Three, a few wildcard weddings were thrown into the mix of each series. Then the show had a brief affair with BBC One, a flirt with Sky, and is now on its tenth year, 13th series and in a brand new relationship – with the more outrageous E4.

During its journey from BBC Three, the show has been losing its way. Tedious relationship preamble has been used to beef up each episode. Some of the grooms are cruel rather than clueless, or seem more pathetic and vulnerable than naïve. And wackier weddings have become the norm.

The programme has now fully split from its understated roots. Since it kicked off at the end of July, every wedding has been a publicity stunt. The pig farm nuptials are sandwiched between a Costa del Sol-based parasail monstrosity and an Eighties Neighbours-themed ceremony, for example. All facilitated by producers clearly handing the groom and best men karaoke booth-style props (sombreros! Inflatable guitars! Wigs!) to soup up the living room planning process.

Such hamminess doesn’t give us the same fly-on-the-wall flavour of a relationship as the older episodes. But maybe this level of artifice is appropriate. As one groom revealed to enraged fans in The Sun this week, the ceremonies filmed are not actually legally binding. “It makes a bit of a mockery of the process that the bride and groom go through this huge ordeal for a ceremony which isn’t even legal,” he said. Perhaps we should’ve predicted it would all eventually end in divorce – from reality.

Don’t Tell the Bride is on E4 at 9pm

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.