Art and Culture

Plays for Today

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Playwright Henrik Ibsen was more than a pioneer of modern theatre: he carried a torch for all those who fight for women's liberation.

I was once told by one of my school teachers that he loved Shakespeare's King Lear because "everything is in there". By which he meant murder, adultery, pride, jealousy... you get the idea. I feel much the same about Henrik Ibsen. The Norwegian playwright, who died 100 years ago, wrote a body of plays which can rightly claim to have heralded modern theatre. They continue to have a profound social impact.

Morrissey and the Love That Dare Not Sing Its Name

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Today the pop industry can easily cope with artists who are openly gay, but can it cope with artists singing about men having sex with men?

Morrissey remains one of the most enigmatic and compelling figures in recent pop history. As the lead singer of The Smiths, arguably one of the most important indie bands of the 1980s, his poetic lyrics, romantic anguish, ambiguous sexuality and vision of a troubled and alienated Britain cut with many a sensitive soul. His solo career has followed a similar trajectory. But I want to start this column in a way that I don't mean to continue. The Morrissey of the past is someone I have loathed and hated, but at times sympathised with.

Reality.net

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Making visible the invisible is a key concept in Marxist and modernist aesthetics.

The arrival of the internet has given a new lease of life to this attempt to represent the dynamic of the real world of exploitation, violence and oppression behind the smooth surfaces of a society that freezes appearance and formally separates the world into artificially distinct categories.

'Playing jazz is a form of resistance. It's about being independent and not conforming. But resistance can also mean standing up to authority'

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Composer and multi-instrumentalist Courtney Pine spoke to Martin Smith about how the battle against prejudice has been a backdrop to his musical career, and about his new album, Resistance.

In 1986 a 22 year old jazz musician from north London released his first solo album, Journey To The Urge Within. His name was Courtney Fitzgerald Pine. The album was a huge hit, breaking into the British Top 40, the first album by a British jazz artist to do so. It established Courtney Pine as a leading figure in the jazz scene. Twenty years later he has just released his 11th album, the critically acclaimed Resistance. He took time out from his 40-date tour to speak to SR about it.

The New McCarthyism

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On the morning of 21 May 2004, artist Steven Kurtz awoke to find his wife Hope lying dead beside him.

Kurtz immediately called paramedics. On arrival, the response team noticed assorted laboratory equipment in the home - petri dishes, microscopes and test tubes. Nervously, they alerted the FBI. The Joint Terrorism Task Force soon descended on the Kurtz home and agents and confiscated Hope's body, and gathered a variety of materials for scientific analysis. They also impounded the artist's passport, lesson plans, books, car, computers, and even his cat.

Challenging the New Leviathan of Racial Inequality

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What is it about Crash that is upsetting liberals?

why has the success of Crash at the Oscars been treated with such scorn? For donkey's years the Oscar for Best Picture has gone to, well, donkeys, and no one gave a damn. This year the Academy gives the statuette to a halfway decent movie, and all hell breaks loose.

The Overall Sale Experience

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Anyone entering the Selfridges store in London for their new year sale in January may have wondered if the store wasn't doing its best to put off potential customers.

Bold red, black and white signs incorporating phrases extolling the distortion of desire that comes with commodity fetishism were everywhere. It was as if a bunch of Marxist subvertisers had crept in late at night and hijacked the space. Critiques of consumerism sourced from Malcolm X, Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allen Poe, among others, were everywhere - as part of a collaboration between New York artist Barbara Kruger and the store.

A Country Divided Against Itself

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There's more radicalism in Nashville than you might think.

Country music, it ought to be agreed, can't be cool. Teenage kids in the Bronx are unlikely to rob passers-by for their Nike stetson, and you wouldn't increase your chances of getting into the most prestigious nightclub in town if you stood in the queue with a pedal steel guitar.

Peace Mom

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We print eclusive extracts from Dario Fo's new one-person play about Cindy Sheehan, translated by Tom Behan.

Part One

Many times I've found something my son once said echoing around my head: 'I want to go to university, and the only chance I've got is to join the United States army. It'll be the army that'll pay my fees. There's no other way I can do it.'

A month after he left for his zone of operations an army cheque came through payable to Casey Sheehan - this money would pay his first round of fees. Three days later another letter: 'Today, 4 April 2004, your son Casey was killed during disturbances in Iraq.'

The cheque was of no use now.

National Debate

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David Edgar's drama Playing with Fire was attacked by critics. In this counterblast, theatre producer Michael Kustow argues Edgar is the Dickens of our stage.

The National Theatre under its director Nicholas Hytner has paid fierce attention to the sore points of the body politic - privatised railways (David Hare's The Permanent Way), the invasion of Iraq (Hare's Stuff Happens), the updating of classics (Shakespeare's Henry V in the era of the Gulf wars) and, in Mike Leigh's recent 2,000 Years, the effect on one Jewish family of the erosion of Zionism, the occupation of Iraq and the tug of war between rationality and religious belief.

The play's the thing

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