I’ve reached the half-way mark in my odyssey through the novels of Charles Dickens – his most ambitious work, and the one which is widely held to be his masterpiece: Bleak House. Dickens began writing Bleak House in November 1851, towards the end of the year of the Great Exhibition, that symbol of the high-water mark … Continue reading Re-reading Dickens: Bleak House
A revival of David Hare’s 1993 play, The Absence of War, seemed an enticing prospect. A drama portraying the Labour Party as lost in ideological confusion, drained of vitality, and unable to mobilise public support or present a vision or values in any compelling way promised to be highly relevant in present circumstances. But at the Liverpool Playhouse the other night I … Continue reading The Absence of War: parliamentary socialism, anybody?
Tomorrow evening I was planning on seeing John Renbourn play at the Floral Pavilion, New Brighton, one stop on a tour he was doing with guitarist Wizz Jones. This morning I opened the paper to learn that he was dead. With Bert Jansch, John Renbourn co-founded Pentangle in 1967, the brilliant band of musicians which burst … Continue reading John Renbourn: buckets of tears
How to explain the phenomenon of Breaking Bad? I pondered this as we waited for One Man Breaking Bad to begin last night in a sold-out, packed Liverpool Philharmonic. The fact that Miles Allen, a Los Angeles-based actor and comedian could fill the place with his 80-minute précis of five seasons of a series never shown on UK television is quite something. Asking … Continue reading One Man Breaking Bad
In anticipation of tomorrow’s great astronomical event, I have been recalling the last (and only) time I witnessed a total solar eclipse. In Cornwall on 11 August 1999 we saw the last total eclipse that was visible over the UK (though, last time, totality was only fully visible along a limited path that crossed northern France and Cornwall). Typically, being … Continue reading Total eclipse: darkness and light
Leviathan, the latest film from Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, opens with waves beating upon a barren shore where rocks as old as the earth face an implacable, slate-grey sea. Tracking inland across barren wastes to an insistent Phillip Glass score, the camera encounters signs of human imprint on this unforgiving landscape: power lines, the hulks of wrecked and abandoned … Continue reading Leviathan: politics, religion, and vodka (lots)
On show at the Walker in Liverpool until June is a tremendous exhibition of photography by Martin Parr and Tony Ray Jones. I first saw the exhibition Only in England when it was on at the Science Museum in London in 2013, and it so captivated me then that I had to go and see it again. For a … Continue reading Only in England: photos by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr at the Walker