Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton star as a married couple caught in conflict in Half of a Yellow Sun. Photograph: Slate Films
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Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Film

Half of a Yellow Sun, dir: BiyiBandele, cinemas nationwide, Friday 11th April

The film adaptation of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s 2006 novel is released today. The screenplay (adapted by director Biyi Bandele) tells the story of the Nigerian-Biafran War in 1967-1970, from the perspectives of four different people whose lives were torn apart by the conflict. The story is a rare example of an African struggle being presented to a Western audience by African voices, although the legacy of colonialism, from all perspectives, is by no means ignored. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton follow up their respective Oscar and BAFTA successes by taking on starring roles which explore the social, political and ethnic tensions of this often overlooked conflict.

Television

True Detective, Sky Atlantic, 9pm, Saturday 12th April

The first series of another one of the "greatest things to happen to television" finishes tonight (that is if you were patient enough to avoid the HBO Go website a few weeks ago, which crashed due to huge amount of traffic the finale garnered). The final episode is both thrilling and poignant, although some critics have said that it lets down the "meticulous mystery" of the previous seven episodes. Nevertheless, it is sure to still draw in viewers and cement Matthew McConaughey’s status as a heavy-duty actor; his performance as Detective Rust Cohle has been credited with lifting the sometimes laboured dialogue into cinematic profundity. How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days seems long lost indeed.

Performance

Soul Trip: Funk Da Cirque, Camden Roundhouse, Friday 11th-Sunday 13th April

Following on from its hugely successful 2012 debut, CircusFest returns to the Roundhouse this weekend. Soul Trip displays the talents of some of the best young street dancers and acrobats from across London, who have recently taken to the stage at the National Theatre and Camp Bestival 2013. The dancers, all aged 11-25, fuse street dance and ground-based acrobatics to test the limits of human rhythm and flexibility. A combination of boogaloo, house, waakin’ and b-boying with theatre, acrobatics, human pyramids and body percussion is sure to tire out the audience, let alone the performers.

Concert

Gary Barlow, Manchester Phones 4U Arena, Monday 14th April

Gary Barlow is back on the road, promoting his new album, Since I Saw You Last (jokes about seeing the last of Barlow can wait outside the door, thank you). Although his re-launched solo career certainly lacks the ammo of Take That’s stratospheric comeback, Barlow has cultivated a strong and loyal fan base. His status as a national icon, if not quite treasure, was confirmed with his OBE in 2012 for services to music and charity. This latest tour, which will surely feature many of the band’s classic hits, will draw in many middle-aged fans, but his appeal to young and old will see him through many more future tours.

Comedy

Russell Howard: Wonderbox, Royal Albert Hall, Monday 14th-Thursday 17th April

Firmly established as a household name, Russell Howard returns for his first live stand-up tour in three years. Fans of his boyish charm may be surprised to learn that he is in fact now 34, but nonetheless, Howard's energetic and enthused routine makes him the boyish antithesis to the Jack Whitehall’s public school breed of rugger humour. His Wonderbox tour has already been called "juvenile" and "smutty", but combined with searing observations about English parochial life ("Some families in England have to wait two weeks for their wheelie bins to be collected. Their suffering is unimaginable"), Howard has managed to tread carefully the line between middle England and its discreetly base sense of humour.

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Why does food taste better when we Instagram it?

Delay leads to increased pleasure when you set up a perfect shot of your dinner.

Been on holiday? Take any snaps? Of course you did – but if you’re anything like me, your friends and family didn’t make it into many of them. Frankly, I can only hope that Mr Whippy and I will still be mates in sixty years, because I’m going to have an awful lot of pictures of him to look back on.

Once a decidedly niche pursuit, photographing food is now almost as popular as eating it, and if you thought that the habit was annoying at home, it is even worse when it intrudes on the sacred peace of a holiday. Buy an ice cream and you’ll find yourself alone with a cone as your companion rushes across a four-lane highway to capture his or hers against the azure sea. Reach for a chip before the bowl has been immortalised on social media and get your hand smacked for your trouble.

It’s a trend that sucks the joy out of every meal – unless, that is, you’re the one behind the camera. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that taking pictures of food enhances our pleasure in it. Diners at the food court of a farmers’ market in Philadelphia were asked either to photograph their meal or to eat “as you normally would”, then were questioned about how they found it. Those in the photography group reported that not only did they enjoy their meal more, but they were “significantly more immersed in the experience” of eating it.

This backs up evidence from previous studies, including one from this year in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, which found that participants who had been asked to photograph a red velvet cake – that bleeding behemoth of American overindulgence – later rated it as significantly tastier than those who had not.

Interestingly, taking a picture of a fruit salad had no effect on its perceived charms, but “when descriptive social norms regarding healthy eating [were] made salient”, photographing these healthier foods did lead to greater enjoyment. In other words, if you see lots of glossy, beautifully lit pictures of chia seed pudding on social media, you are more likely to believe that it’s edible, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
This may seem puzzling. After all, surely anything tastes better fresh from the kitchen rather than a protracted glamour shoot – runny yolks carefully split to capture that golden ooze, strips of bacon arranged just so atop plump hemispheres of avocado, pillowy burger buns posed to give a glimpse of meat beneath. It is hardly surprising that 95 million posts on Instagram, the photo-sharing site, proudly bear the hashtag #foodporn.

However, it is this delay that is apparently responsible for the increase in pleasure: the act of rearranging that parsley garnish, or moving the plate closer to the light, increases our anticipation of what we are about to eat, forcing us to consider how delicious it looks even as we forbid ourselves to take a bite until the perfect shot is in the bag. You could no doubt achieve the same heightened sense of satisfaction by saying grace before tucking in, but you would lose the gratification that comes from imagining other people ogling your grilled Ibizan sardines as they tuck in to an egg mayonnaise at their desk.

Bear in mind, though, that the food that is most successful on Instagram often has a freakish quality – lurid, rainbow-coloured bagel-croissant hybrids that look like something out of Frankenstein’s bakery are particularly popular at the moment – which may lead to some unwise menu choices in pursuit of online acclaim.

On the plus side, if a diet of giant burgers and salted-caramel lattes leaves you feeling queasy, take heart: if there is one thing that social media likes more than #avotoast, it is embarrassing oversharing. After a week of sickening ice-cream shots, a sickbed selfie is guaranteed to cheer up the rest of us. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser