On my radar: Hugh Skinner’s cultural highlights

The W1A and Fleabag actor on the weird humour of Julia Davis, lovely but lethal sandwiches, and Nina Simone

Hugh Skinner attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (Lamda) before beginning his career in the theatre. Since 2014 he has played the role of the useless intern Will in the BBC satire W1A; his other television roles include would-be MP Unwin Trevaunance in series two of Poldark, the protagonist’s on-off boyfriend Harry in Fleabag, and Prince William in royal spoof soap opera The Windsors. His film credits include Kill Your Friends and Les Misérables, while theatre roles include American Psycho at the Almeida, and The Trial and The Cherry Orchard at the Young Vic. The Windsors Christmas Special is on 23 December at 10pm on Channel 4.

1 | TV programme

‘It’s unbelievably funny and goes places you wouldn’t imagine’: Julia Davis sitcom Camping. Photograph: Colin Hutton

I’ve loved this recently. It’s Julia Davis’s latest sitcom and I’ve loved everything she’s done – Hunderby and Nighty Night and Human Remains. I like how her humour is so unhinged, deeply weird and very dark. So these three couples who have known each other for a while go on a camping trip to celebrate one of their birthdays, and it’s unbelievably funny and goes places you wouldn’t imagine. And I love Vicki Pepperdine in it, who’s this overbearing nightmare who won’t let her son eat a baguette at breakfast in case it encourages him to be gay. It’s brilliant.

2 | Music
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

Ruban Nielson
‘They all started living together in this three-way relationship’: Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Photograph: Mike Windle/Getty Images for Coachella

I’ve been listening to this a lot. The lead singer, Ruban Nielson, who’s married, went on holiday and met this girl and fell in love with her, so he came back and told his wife all about her. She was then so intrigued by her she invited her round, and they all started living together in this three-way relationship. Then he wrote an album about it, and it’s a really enjoyable soul album that sounds a bit like Stevie Wonder. It has some juicy trumpets in it, and it’s quite psychedelic as well. He also did some interviews about the whole situation and they caused a bit of a stir, I think, with the people involved.

3 | Art
Tacita Dean – Event for a Stage

Tacita Dean passes notes to Stephen Dillane in Event for a Stage
‘It’s this amazing riddle’: Tacita Dean, right, passes notes to Stephen Dillane in Event for a Stage. Photograph: photo@susannahwimberley.com/Frith Street Gallery

I saw this film at Frith Street Gallery in London earlier this year. Over four performances the artist got the actor Stephen Dillane to perform this piece, but she was sitting at the side and would pass him things he had to read or do during the performance. It’s this amazing riddle, and you can’t get to the bottom of what’s true and what isn’t. He seems like he’s having a really terrible time, and you can’t work out whether he’s a puppet or a rebel, and what the tension between them is. It sends your head into a bit of a spin. At one point he said: “An actor is the lowest form of life; I have no will of my own.” But you couldn’t work out who was in charge.

4 | Food
Max’s Sandwich Shop, London

A ham, egg and chip sandwich from Max’s Sandwich Shop
‘We didn’t speak for the whole time we were eating, we just sat there grunting’: a ham, egg and chip sandwich from Max’s Sandwich Shop. Photograph: Evening Standard

This is quite a small place near Finsbury Park. They just sell sandwiches, really, but it was honestly the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten in my life: beef and sauerkraut with crisps and garlic and mayonnaise. It was unbelievable. We didn’t speak for the whole time we were eating, we just sat there grunting. It was incredibly rich – I did manage to finish the sandwich, against my better judgment – and to be honest I’m quite glad I don’t live near there, because I’d probably be dead. And Max, of the title, is very present in the shop as well, with this potty-mouthed, gregarious charm.

5 | Theatre Lazarus, King’s Cross theatre, London

Michael C Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso in Lazarus at King’s Cross theatre
‘I thought the projections were amazing’: Michael C Hall and Sophia Anne Caruso in Lazarus at King’s Cross theatre. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

I went to see this the other day: it’s Ivo van Hove’s follow-up to The Man Who Fell to Earth, set in a New York high rise. No one I’ve met has enjoyed this, but I think that might be the reason I liked it so much, because I went in prepared to be completely baffled. I just loved it. I thought the projections were amazing: something would happen on the screen and then it would seemingly become actual. It’s the best-looking and sounding show I think I’ve ever seen and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m not sure I really knew what it was about, but I love the song Moonage Daydream and I don’t know what that means either, but that doesn’t bother me.

6 | Documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?

Nina Simone
‘When she was younger she wanted to be a classical pianist’: Nina Simone. Photograph: David Redfern/Redferns

I obviously knew Nina Simone’s music, but I didn’t know anything about her, and how she was introduced to music. When she was younger she wanted to be a classical pianist but people had only heard her work in jazz clubs. At one point they look at My Baby Just Cares For Me – I’d heard the song lots, but there’s a bit in there where she’s singing it and improvises a fugue, from presumably playing lots of Bach or something. It was fascinating. And all the stories behind the songs as well, which I had no idea about. It’s incredibly sad, but inspirational too.

Les Chants de Maldoror by Comte de Lautréamont

7 | Book
Les Chants de Maldoror (1868) by Comte de Lautréamont

I’m reading this at the moment but I think it’ll sound so unbelievably pretentious I’ll come across as a bit of a wanker. It’s this book all the early surrealists were inspired by, and it’s about this godless lunatic called Maldoror. It’s very gothic, and it’s got this line in it they all loved: “as beautiful as the chance encounter between a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table”. It was written a while before surrealism kicked off, but when it did they all cited it as their big thing. It’s a novel in six cantos, or songs, but there isn’t really a plot: it’s a weird, freewheeling flight of fancy. I heard about it on Radio 4’s In O ur Time. It’s quite dense but I’m enjoying it.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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