Just after sunset in The Lizard, Cornwall. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Friday Arts Diary | 19 September 2014

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Festival

Little Big Gig, Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Friday 19 September - Monday 22 September

This is a quirky, family-friendly music and ale festival set on The Lizard - the peak of southern England in Cornwall - overlooking the Atlantic. With music from every genre - jazz, rock, soul - everyone is sure to find something. The location allows a full 3-day festival experience with beautiful sights to compliment. 

Theatre

64 Squares, New Diorama Theatre, London
Opens 23 September

This upcoming play is adapted from the novel The Royal Game by the 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Set in the late 1930s, the world’s greatest chess player is challenged by an odd newcomer. As the game unfolds, move after move, the mysterious stranger reveals his dark past. An exciting tale of identify and madness moving over a board of 64 Squares.

Music

Game Music Connect, Southbank Centre, London
24 September

This one-day conference is for aspiring and professional composers of all backgrounds as well as those interested in learning about the art and craft of creating today’s cutting-edge video game soundtracks. You don’t need to be a composer or industry professional to be a part of Game Music ConnectFans of soundtracks and, indeed, anyone with an interest in music or games is more than welcome to attend any Game Music Connect event.

Film

Encounter’s Festival 20/20, Bristol
Tuesday 16th September - Sunday 21 September
 

Connecting the past to the future, Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival celebrates short film from its origins as an analogue medium right up to the expanded worlds of live audio-visual, immersive and interactive digital cinema. The 2014 festival continues to revolve around two main venues - the Watershed and Arnolfini - and extends at the weekend to include the Cube Microplex and Harbourside. There will also be opportunities to participate online. The festival aims to push the boundaries of cinematic expectation, explore social and technological film futures, reimagine the analogue/digital fusion and debate the post-medium condition of film.

Art

London Design Festival
Tuesday 16 September - Sunday 21 September

The London Design Festival is an annual event, held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world. Building on London’s existing design activity, the event was launched in 2003 to create an annual event that would promote the city’s creativity, drawing in the country’s greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators to a deliver an unmissable celebration of design.

BBC
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Would the BBC's Nazi drama SS-GB have felt half so resonant a year ago?

This alternate history is freighted with meaning now we're facing the wurst-case scenario. 

Would SS-GB have felt half so resonant a year ago? Though the clever-after-the-fact Nostradamus types out there might disagree, I can’t believe that it would. When it comes to the Second World War, after all, the present has helpfully stepped in where memory is just beginning to leave off. The EU, in the process of fragmenting, is now more than ever powerless to act in the matter of rogue states, even among its own membership. In case you hadn’t noticed, Hungary, for instance, is already operating as a kind of proto-fascist state, led by Viktor Orbán, a man whom Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, jokingly likes to call “the dictator” – and where it goes, doubtless others will soon follow.

The series (Sundays, 9pm), adapted from Len Deighton’s novel, is set in 1941 in a Britain under Nazi occupation; Winston Churchill has been executed and the resistance is struggling to hold on to its last strongholds in the countryside. Sam Riley plays Douglas Archer, a detective at Scotland Yard, now under the control of the SS, and a character who appears in almost every scene. Riley has, for an actor, a somewhat unexpressive face, beautiful but unreadable. Here, however, his downturned mouth and impassive cheekbones are perfect: Archer, after all, operates (by which I mean, barely operates) in a world in which no one wants to give their true feelings away, whether to their landlady, their lover, or their boss, newly arrived from Himmler’s office and as Protestant as all hell (he hasn’t used the word “degenerate” yet, but he will, he will).

Archer is, of course, an ambiguous figure, neither (at present) a member of the resistance nor (we gather) a fully committed collaborator. He is – or so he tells himself – merely doing his job, biding his time until those braver or more foolhardy do something to restore the old order. Widowed, he has a small boy to bring up. Yet how long he can inhabit this dubious middle ground remains to be seen. Oskar Huth (Lars Eidinger), the new boss, is keen to finish off the resistance; the resistance, in turn, is determined to persuade Archer to join its cause.

It’s hard to find fault with the series; for the next month, I am going to look forward to Sunday nights mightily. I would, I suppose, have hoped for a slightly more charismatic actress than Kate Bosworth to play Barbara Barga, the American journalist who may or may not be involved with the British resistance. But everything else seems pretty perfect to me. London looks suitably dirty and its inhabitants’ meals suitably exiguous. Happiness is an extra egg for tea, smoking is practically a profession, and
the likes of Archer wear thick, white vests.

Swastikas adorn everything from the Palace of Westminster to Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace is half ruined, a memorial to what the Germans regard as Churchill’s folly, and the CGI is good enough for the sight of all these things to induce your heart to ache briefly. Nazi brutality is depicted here as almost quotidian – and doubtless it once was to some. Huth’s determination to have four new telephone lines installed in his office within the hour is at one end of this horrible ordinariness. At the other is the box in which Archer’s mutinous secretary Sylvia (Maeve Dermody) furiously stubs out her fag, full to the brim with yellow stars.

When I first heard about The Kettering Incident (Tuesdays, 12.20am; repeated Wednesdays, 10pm) I thought someone must have found out about that thing that happened one time I was driving north on the M1 with a more-than-usually terrible hangover. Turns out it’s a new Australian drama, which comes to us on Sky Atlantic. Anna (Elizabeth Debicki), a doctor working in London, pitches up back in Tasmania many years after her teenage friend Gillian disappeared into its Kettering forest, having seen a load of mysterious bright lights. Was Gillian abducted by aliens or was she, as some local people believe, murdered by Anna? To be honest, she could be working as a roadie for Kylie, for all I care. This ponderous, derivative show is what happens when a writer sacrifices character on the altar of plot. The more the plot thickens, the more jaw-achingly tedious it becomes.

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 24 February 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The world after Brexit