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  1. Culture
16 May 2008

Home and Away

From air-kissing New Yorkers in London to wistful Palestinians in Dubai - we go globetrotting as Nat

By Natasha Periyan

Face off?

Polly Stenham‘s That Face premiered at the Duke of York’s theatre this week, after debuting at the the Royal Court last year. The 21 year old’s portrayal of a middle class family’s meltdown attracted rave reviews, with the Independent’s Paul Taylor remarking that it was a “dazzling debut” and a “richly deserved success”. Our own Andrew Billen was more restrained in his praise, however, commenting that “the last ten minutes are histrionic at best”, but conceded that Stenham was, nevertheless, “a most promising playwright”.

Similar murmurs of discontent regarding the psychological veracity of Stenham’s characters filtered through reviews in the Guardian and the Stage. Michael Billington noted that “she never fully makes clear what has turned Martha into a psychological wreck”, and the Stage‘s reviewer felt that “the characters feel more like types than recognisable individuals” .

The Telegraph‘s Charles Spencer was effusive in his praise, however. The former Bullingdon Club member assured readers that Stenham’s dialogue of “privileged, privately educated teenagers is bang on the money.”

Parliament of Artists

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The blogs have been active this week with responses to Alan Davy’s proposals to reform the evaluation of arts institutions, through self-assessment and peer review. Lyn Gardner on Comment is Free felt that there was a “climate of mistrust between arts and the Arts Council”, and that “the inspection process needs a far wider range of people on board, including producers”.

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Mark Ravenhill was also keen to see increased input from arts practitioners in shaping arts policy. He proposed the setting up of a “public chamber where artists debate the future of culture” and felt that artists should be involved in the debate of artistic policy. He acknowledged that such a body would involve some degree of public funding, but felt that by including figures such as Ian McKellen, Tracey Emin and Thom Yorke, media coverage and public interest would be enhanced. That, he argues, “would be worth every penny”.

Partition Art

Whilst this week’s NS commemorated the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, a Reuters report considered the place of Palestinian art in this fractured political landscape. Wish You Were Here is Dubai-based Palestinian artist, Jeffar Khaldi’s latest exhibition, and is borne out of his own family’s experiences. In 1948, Khaldi’s father refused to stay in the camps to await resettlement, and moved instead to Beirut, later emigrating to the US. Khaldi’s paintings survey scenes of refugee camps, exodus and loss, as he portrays the displacement of 4.5 million Palestinians to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank.

Discussing his family history, Khaldi noted; “My grandmother always told me about the house they had in Palestine, the land, the people and the kind of life they had, until a split second they were running for their life on the back of donkeys.”

Sex and another City

The new Sex and the City movie premiered in London on Monday night, amidst some unease over why exactly the premiere was not in the city of the film’s title – New York, the fifth star of the show. The film’s producers placated fans by saying that the decision was taken merely to maximise the film’s global appeal, and is not a reflection of a disappointing last outing for the SATC women.

It appears that little could be done to maximise the film’s gender appeal, however. The Sun’s male reporter commented, somewhat wearily that “two hours spent with four air-kissing women might tire out most men”.