Culture

I Am The Greatest

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Muhammad Ali is one of the greatest boxers of all time. He won the world heavyweight championship four times — a record he still holds. This exhibition takes you through his life, centring on his fights, but it also celebrates his resistance to the war in Vietnam and racism in society.

After a short film a maze of corridors leads us from Ali’s Louisiana childhood in the 1940s through to his comeback in the 70s. He grew up as Cassius Clay and changed his name in 1964 to X before being given the name Muhammad Ali by Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

East London Group: Out of the City

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The core of the East London Group of artists were East End workers — “a warehouseman, a house decorator, three deck hands waiting for a ship, and a haddock smoker”. They met in classes at the Bethnal Green Men’s Institute and exhibited their paintings from the late 1920s to the late 1930s.

They were best known for their landscapes of the East End, painting the streets and buildings of Bethnal Green, Bow and Stratford, the canals and bridges around the Thames and some of the big workplaces such as the Bryant and May match factory.

Stories from the street

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John Godber’s plays about working class people have been popular for many years. After attending a secondary modern school and becoming a drama teacher, he ran Hull Truck Theatre Company for 20 years. He spoke to Dave Gilchrist about his new play, Shafted, which deals with the continued fallout from the Great Miners’ Strike of 1984-85.

Why produce a play about the Miners’ Strike 30 years after the dispute?

I’m from a mining family and it was too raw at the time to write about the strike. My dad is 85 and still whenever we talk about the strike he starts banging the table and wanting to punch somebody.

We often hear about the “Northern Powerhouse”. I’ve not worked out where that is yet. I try to live in the real world and what I see are zero hours contracts, containerisation, large distribution warehouses and the demise of industry.

The Maids

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This 1947 play by French playwright Jean Genet comes to London’s West End in a new version for the Jamie Lloyd Company. The all-star cast features Uzo Aduba (best known for her role in US TV comedy Orange is the New Black), Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat) and Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey).

The Club

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This powerful and disturbing film from Chile is set in a retirement home “for priests who can no longer serve”. Although it is naturalistically shot, the setting — a down-at-heel fishing village with a house on the hill containing terrible secrets — has the all-pervading malevolence of a horror movie.

Culloden/The War Game

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At a time when historical programming consists almost entirely of royalist sycophancy and “celebrities” ambling around ruins, it is instructive to recall the early works of radical film-maker Peter Watkins. Both Culloden (1964) and The War Game (1965) were commissioned by the BBC under the aegis of Huw Wheldon, then head of the BBC’s Documentary Film Department when BBC 2 was still in its infancy.

Anomalisa

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This is a beautiful and distinctive looking stop-motion animation written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote the films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It captures the struggles of an alienated man battling through the big questions of life: What is it to be human? What is it to be alive?

Hail Caesar!

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The Coen Brothers’ latest movie tells the story of a day in the life of Eddie Mannix, the real life MGM studio executive and “fixer”. He covered up scandals and dealt with the press, as the movie shows. He also beat his partners and helped business contacts escape rape charges.

This side of him is missing from Hail, Caesar!, which both fictionalises and sanitises the man. Instead, Mannix (Josh Brolin) is an unresting force of organisation and quick thinking, absurdly good at his job.

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