Culture

Divided Loyalties

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Review of 'A Masked Ball' by Giuseppe Verdi, English National Opera, London

The new production of Verdi's 'A Masked Ball' (1859) by Spanish director Calixto Bieito has unleashed a wave of media hysteria. Not only has Bieito transferred the setting from 18th century Sweden to post-Franco Spain, but he seems almost to have invited controversy--the opera opens with a row of 14 conspirators sitting on the toilet.

War and Peace

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Review of 'No Man's Land', director Danis Tanovic

Sometimes you see an image so often that it becomes familiar and meaningless, and the scenes of wars we see on television are one example. During the civil war that consumed Yugoslavia in the 1990s, a television reporter would talk to camera in front of armoured personnel carriers full of UN peacekeepers, the sound of shelling going on behind them. But it does not take much to make an apparently familiar situation seem new.

Grim Fairy Tales

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Review of 'Shockheaded Peter' by Heinrich Hoffman, Albany Theatre, London

'Shockheaded Peter' is billed as junk opera. It's a musical with songs like you've never heard, and it looks like a cross between a sinister Victorian play written by Roald Dahl, and a film directed by Tim Burton and starring the child catcher from 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'. It's dark and sinister but it's also extremely funny. The show is based on a collection of German children's stories called 'Struwwelpeter', written in 1844 by Dr Heinrich Hoffman.

Head Above the Rest

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Review of 'Richard III' by William Shakespeare, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield

'If you believe no one is born bad, that it's the world that makes them bad, then 'Richard III' becomes a fascinating play about the human condition.' So comments Michael Grandage, the director of a recent sell-out run of 'Richard III' at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre.

The actor who plays Derby in the production also comments that 'people are not physically beheaded in England (today) for disagreeing with whoever's in power, but they are politically beheaded.'

Murder and Mystery

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Review of 'From Hell', directors Albert and Allen Hughes

The Jack the Ripper story repeatedly attracts the interest of modern artists. Is it the dark and frightening background of Victorian London, or the supposed connections of the murderer to the Freemasons and to the eldest son of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Clarence? Whatever, this is no ordinary murder story, but a symbol of a class riven city and an imperial order in deep crisis.

A Very Public Rebellion

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Review of 'If...', director Lindsay Anderson

1968 was the big year of revolt, its epicentre the student-led insurrection in Paris. But the spirit of resistance in the field of culture and the arts had begun earlier. In the late 1950s French New Wave cinema had rejected the well made studio film and taken to the streets to celebrate freedom. The spin-off here was the emergence of a number of film directors such as Lindsay Anderson. He made 'If...' in 1968, the very year in which the spirit of revolt became a material force.

Resisting the Temptation of Love

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Review of 'Charlotte Gray', director Gillian Armstrong

'Charlotte Gray', based on Sebastian Faulks's novel, is a classic story of girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl signs up as a spy behind enemy lines in Vichy France to find boy, girl ends up with different boy. Cate Blanchett plays the title role, a young Scottish woman with a love of all things French and a hatred of what the Nazis have done to the country. She is naive and romantic, and falls in love with an RAF officer at a party. When he fails to return from a mission over France she resolves to go there and find him.

Top of the Pops?

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John Molyneux reviews the new Andy Warhol exhibition at Tate Modern.

In 1963 the Pop Artist Roy Lichtenstein painted 'Whaam!' It was a huge blow-up of a comic book image depicting a US fighter jet destroying an enemy plane at the press of a button. Nearly 30 years later, in the run-up to the Gulf War, 'Socialist Review' put this picture on the front cover with the caption 'Stop Bush's Mad War'. Similarly, in 1962 Andy Warhol produced his 'Marilyn Diptych', with its rows of yellow-haired Marilyns, and 36 years later the 'International Socialism Journal' referenced Warhol on its cover with rows of yellow-haired Karl Marxes.

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