Culture

Angels in America

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Playwright Tony Kushner is having a resurgence in London, and there could not be a better time for it.

Last autumn his play, The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures, astounded audiences at the Hampstead Theatre. Now comes a stunning, star-studded production of his seven and a half hour magnum opus Angels in America at the National Theatre.

Damn

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Two years ago Kendrick Lamar delivered one of the landmark albums of the decade. To Pimp a Butterfly combined the brilliant, imaginative musicality of artists such as Kamasi Washington, Flying Lotus and Thundercat with Lamar’s sharp observations about the “post-racial” society that Barack Obama’s presidency had supposedly ushered in. One of its stand out tracks “Alright” quickly became one of the anthems of the burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement.

Freedom Highway

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Rhiannon Giddens first made her name with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, who played string-band music, heavily relying on the banjo and fiddle. The band formed after the first Black Banjo Gathering in North Carolina in 2005 and helped to reclaim a lost tradition of African-American country music. Their music reached its peak in 2010 with the joyful sounds of “Genuine Negro Jig.”

A Moving Image

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A Moving Image is an innovative account of the gentrification of Brixton. The film is a fictionalised account making use of documentary footage, photography and performance art. It begins with Nina, who is returning to the area after living in Shoreditch, east London.

The opening scenes feature the character Big Ben on a megaphone, a nod to the many political activists and religious evangelists who make the streets of Brixton so unique.

Queer British Art 1861-1967

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Tate Britain’s first ever LGBT+-related exhibition explores connections between art and a diverse range of sexualities and gender identities. It covers the period between the abolition of the death penalty for sodomy in 1861 and the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 which partially decriminalised consensual sex between men over 21 (both legal changes affected England and Wales only). This is a historic exhibition then, inventive, fascinating, surprising and affecting. Nevertheless there are some interesting contradictions at play.

Five things to do or see this month

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People Power: Fighting for Peace
Imperial War Museum, London, 23 March to 28 August

This exhibition displays over 300 objects, including posters, placards, badges, artworks and banners, from anti-war movements over the past century. From First World War conscientious objectors to the Stop the War Coalition via the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Greenham Common women’s camp, the IWM examines the passions and motivation of the millions who have taken up the struggle against war.

Elwan

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This album expresses beautifully the longing of Tuareg nomads in exile whose Saharan homeland has been the site of successive wars. The Islamist militias who took over Northern Mali in late 2012 denounced Tinariwen’s music and even kidnapped one of their members. Several of the band participated in previous Tuareg rebellions, meeting for the first time in a military training camp before they swapped their machine guns for guitars.

Gang Signs and Prayer

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The dark, last supper-esque cover art of Stormzy’s debut album, coupled with the reference to gangs in its title, instantly had commentators decrying yet another grime artist “glamorising” street crime and gang life in London. But one listen through would be enough to reveal this album as being far from that.

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