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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Yes, you could skip brunch and save for a deposit on a house. But why?

You'd be missing out. 

There’s a tiny café round the corner from me, a place so small that you have to leave your Bugaboo pushchair outside (a serious consideration in this part of the world), which has somehow become famous across town for its brunch. At weekends, the queue spills on to the road, with people patiently waiting for up to an hour for pancakes, poached eggs and pondy-looking juices served in jam jars. The food is just as good later on, yet there’s rarely much of a line after 2pm, because brunch is cool in a way that lunch isn’t. Where lunch is quotidian, brunch feels decadent – a real weekend treat.

Though the phenomenon is hardly new – the term was coined by a Brit back in 1895 – brunch has always been more popular in the United States than here, possibly because it’s a meal that you generally go out for and eating out has long been more affordable, and thus common, across the pond. Despite our proud greasy-spoon heritage, the idea of brunch as an occasion with a distinct character, rather than just a wickedly late breakfast, is relatively recent, and it owes much to the increasing informality of 21st-century life.

The Little Book of Brunch by Caroline Craig and Sophie Missing revels in the freedom that the occasion bestows upon the cook, falling as it does outside the long-established conventions of the three-meal
structure. “It’s the meal where you can get away with anything,” they write.

By way of proof, along with eggs Benedict and buttermilk waffles, the book features such novelties as ’nduja-and-egg pizza, spaghetti frittatas and lentil falafels – dishes that you could quite respectably serve for lunch or dinner, yet also contain the cosseting, comforting qualities necessary in a first meal of the day.

Though such culinary experimentation is no doubt attractive to the increasingly adventurous British palate, I suspect that the arrival on these shores of the “bottomless brunch”, a hugely popular trend in the US, may also have something to do with our new enthusiasm for the meal – to the concern of health experts, given that Americans seem better able to grasp the idea of drinking as many Bloody Marys as they can handle, rather than as many as they want.

As David Shaftel put it in an op-ed for the New York Times entitled, wonderfully, “Brunch is for jerks”, this meal is “about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation . . . revelling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day. It’s the mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture.”

The Australian social commentator Bernard Salt agrees, blaming this taste for “smashed avocado with crumbled feta on five-grain toasted bread at $22 a pop” for the younger generation’s failure to grow up, take responsibility and save enough money to buy a house. But as critics observed, house prices in Sydney, like those in the UK, are now so high that you’d have to forgo your weekly avo toast for 175 years in order to put together a deposit, and so, perhaps, it’s not unreasonable to want to live in the moment instead. “We are not going out for brunch instead of buying houses: we are brunching because we cannot afford to buy houses,” as the journalist Brigid Delaney wrote in response.

Baby boomers got the free education, the generous pensions and the houses and left us with shakshuka, sourdough and a flat white. Seems like a fair deal. 

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 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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