Five of the best ... films
Funny Cow (15)
(Adrian Shergold, 2017, UK) 103 mins
A female wannabe standup in 1970s northern England is asking for trouble, you could say, but Maxine Peake’s heroine here is already no stranger to trouble, from a troubled childhood to an abusive husband. Her story is no straight rags-to-riches feelgood drama; it’s more a gritty, bittersweet character study, carried by Peake’s magnificent performance.
(Xavier Legrand, 2017, Fra) 94 mins
This realist family drama could almost be a social services case study, so convincing is the acting and so effective the execution. Instead, it steadily morphs into something more tense and terrifying. Surly ex-husband Denis Ménochet is granted access to his young son; ex-wife Léa Drucker fears the consequences. We soon find out why.
A Quiet Place (15)
(John Krasinski, 2018, US) 90 mins
Tiptoe, don’t walk to see this great horror, whose novel post-apocalyptic scenario (Earth has been overrun by alien monsters with sensitive hearing) is primed for excruciating tension – especially as there’s a baby on the way. It’s also a moving family drama, as parents Krasinski and Emily Blunt suffer the ravages of grief, loneliness and despair, mostly in silence.
A Gentle Creature (18)
(Sergei Loznitsa, 2017, Fra/Ger/Rus/Lith/Neth/Ukr/Lat) 143 mins
It’s ostensibly set in a modern-day Russian prison town but this unforgettable drama feels like a journey into a nightmare world, where law and order are all up for grabs. Our guide is a country wife (Vasilina Makovtseva) on a search for answers about her convict husband, but between the Kafkaesque bureaucracy, untrustworthy locals, drunkenness and exploitation, we pray she’ll make it out in one piece.
(Valeska Grisebach, 2017, Ger/Bul/Aus) 121 mins
This extraordinary film is too rich and complex to categorise. The frontier is eastern European rather than wild western: a group of German contractors working in rural Bulgaria. Cultural clashes flare up but our hero is a modern-day Clint Eastwood type: a quiet, strong, solitary (Meinhard Neumann, pictured, right) whose friendly engagement with the locals has repercussions.
Five of the best ... rock & pop gigs
Kojo Kankam, AKA 21-year-old MC Novelist, has been biding his time. Various accolades – best grime act nomination at the 2014 Mobo awards, appearing on the BBC Sound Of poll a year later – haven’t rushed him, with his long-awaited debut, the self-produced Novelist Guy, released this month. Expect to hear him rattle through it at this one-off London show.
Bermondsey Social Club, SE16 Wednesday 25 April
After the success of 2015’s self-titled debut – a collaboration with Matthew E White’s Spacebomb collective – Prass will return in June with its follow-up, The Future and the Past. It’s an album she re-wrote to be more positive after the 2016 US elections, and first single Short Court Style adds a dose of playful pop to the immaculate Americana.
London, Monday 23; Brighton, Thursday 26; Manchester, Friday 27; touring to 29 April
Prior to forming the intriguingly titled Boy Azooga, band leader Davey Newington drummed under the alias Bongo Fury in Charlotte Church’s covers collective Late Night Pop Dungeon. His new day job feels equally playful, taking in psychedelia, a light smattering of funk and chunky riffs.
Bristol, Tuesday 24; Southampton, Wednesday 25; London, Thursday 26; Birmingham, Friday 27 April; touring to 24 June
Ahead of Bloc Party’s forthcoming Silent Alarm 13th-anniversary tour, Okereke focuses on solo business with this quick jaunt in support of last year’s surprisingly stripped-back Fatherland album. Fingers crossed there’s also space for some songs from his excellent, much clubbier 2010 solo debut, The Boxer.
Norwich, Sunday 22; Cambridge, Monday 23; Tunbridge Wells, Tuesday 24; Cardiff, Thursday 26; Southampton, Friday 27; touring to 29 April
Martin Speake/Ethan Iverson Quartet
American pianist Ethan Iverson became a contemporary music celebrity for his now-ended 20-year association with genre-bending trio the Bad Plus. A free agent again, he rekindles his longer musical friendship with British saxophonist Martin Speake in this sharp quartet, in a creative mix of originals, standards and updated bebop.
Brighton, Saturday 21; Colchester, Sunday 22; Cheltenham, Monday 23; London, Tuesday 24 & Wednesday 25; Bristol, Thursday 26; Reading, Friday 27 April
Four of the best ... classical concerts
Simpson’s Cello Concerto
In 2015, the BBC Philharmonic premiered The Immortal, a choral work that established Mark Simpson as a creative force to be reckoned with in British music. Simpson has now become the orchestra’s composer-in-association, and the first product of that is a cello concerto he’s written for Leonard Elschenbroich, with Clemens Schuldt conducting.
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Saturday 21 April
Occupy the Pianos
This is the third annual celebration of contemporary keyboard music, curated by composer and pianist Rolf Hind. Highlights of the final two days include new works by Zoë Martlew, Luke Bedford and Loré Lixenberg, scenes from Mauricio Kagel’s groundbreaking Staatstheater, and performances of Feldman, Rădulescu and Rzewski.
St John’s Smith Square, SW1, Saturday 21 & Sunday 22 April
Founded by composer Thierry Pécou, Ensemble Variances specialise in concerts that go beyond the usual assemblages of disparate new works. Their visit to this year’s Bristol New Music is devoted to Pécou’s own piece, Outre-Mémoire, a quartet described as an “exploration of the slave trade through music”.
Victoria Rooms, Bristol, Sunday 22 April
In contrast to some other leading British opera companies, Scottish Opera is very much on the up at the moment. The cast in Oliver Mears’s production of Tchaikovsky’s lyrical masterpiece is led by the Welsh soprano Natalya Romaniw, with Samuel Dale Johnson as Onegin.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Friday27 April to 5 May; touring to 30 June
Five of the best ... exhibitions
Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece
Rodin reinvented sculpture and paved the way for modern art, yet he was also a dedicated student of the classical tradition. This bold exhibition sets his sensual, erotic and tragic figures alongside the Parthenon marbles and other ancient Greek masterpieces in what should be a sensational display of stone and bronze bodies pulsing with life and power.
British Museum, WC1 Thursday 26 April to 29 July
How simply can you draw a human face and still have it express something? Julian Opie’s art combines the graphic humour of Tintin’s creator Hergé with a philosophical investigation of what it is to make a picture. The result is a crisp, lucid vision of modern life in accessible yet intelligent works of pop art.
Alan Cristea Gallery, SW1, Thursday 26 April to 16 June
The Jewish East End was a cultural dynamo before the first world war and David Bomberg was its most gifted young artist. He got thrown out of art school for being too modernist and went on to defiantly exhibit paintings such as The Mud Bath (1914), a Futurist vision of a Whitechapel steam bath. Later, he painted realist landscapes that glower with restless energy, and also taught the young Frank Auerbach.
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne, to 28 May
Monet & Architecture
This is a thought-provoking as well as visually ravishing journey into the mind of Monet. He never lets you down. Every one of the 78 paintings is entrancing and many will be unfamiliar, for the curators have searched far and wide for images of churches, railway stations and other buildings in Monet’s art. The result is almost shocking, revealing the symbolic intensity and moral meanings of paintings so often dismissed as merely pretty.
The National Gallery, WC2, to 29 July
Otto Boll and Jef Verheyen
The further reaches of abstraction are explored in this ethereal meeting of two elusive European artists. The German Boll’s sculptures (pictured) resemble black whips tapering away to nothingness or frames for pictures that don’t exist. The paintings by the late Belgian Verheyen are blue or pink planes of druggy mystic possibility. Two artists of contemplative purity and freedom who are worth discovering.
Modern Art, EC1, Friday 27 April to 16 June
Five of the best ... theatre shows
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
It may have been scooped by Hamilton in the Oliviers, but nobody should underestimate the achievement of Dan Gillespie Sells and Tom MacRae in creating this contemporary, original musical. John McCrea is a knockout as the teenage would-be drag queen, and if this show doesn’t send you out of the theatre on a high, then you must already be dead.
Apollo Theatre, W1 to 6 October
A Streetcar Named Desire
Chelsea Walker’s revival of Tennessee Williams’s drama for English Touring Theatre is a slow burn, but it finally delivers in a second half that destroys both Blanche’s illusions and those of the audience too. Kelly Gough, sister to the better-known Denise, is outstanding as Blanche.
Bristol Old Vic, Saturday 21; New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Tuesday 24 to 28 April; touring to 16 June
The Cherry Orchard
Michael Boyd’s revival of Chekhov’s final play is full of nuance, light and shade. The dead son of Madam Ranyevskaya (an excellent Kirsty Bushell) haunts the action in an evening that comes in a fine new translation by Rory Mullarkey. It begins in period costume but gradually takes a contemporary turn. The effect is to create a Cherry Orchard that is about both a 19th-century world in a state of flux and our own times.
Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, to 19 May
The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk
A story of creativity and love in a century of change, this show about the life and times of Marc and Bella Chagall is exquisitely done in a production by Emma Rice that really does feel as if it flies. Daniel Jamieson’s script charts Russian history from the pogroms to revolution with a light touch and the show is infused with Russian-Jewish folk music.
The Oxford Playhouse, Saturday 21; Royal & Derngate, Northampton, Tuesday 24 to 28 April; touring to 10 June
Schiller’s political tragedy considers the differing fates of two cousins and queens: Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Robert Icke’s version and production has the raciness of a thriller and two remarkable actors – Juliet Stevenson and Lia Williams – to play the two women, both prisoners in their own ways and subject to the whims of fate. The toss of a coin on the night decides who plays which role.
The Lowry, Salford, Saturday 21; Cambridge Arts Theatre, Monday 23 to 28 April
Three of the best ... dance shows
Cecilia Bengolea & François Chaignaud: DFS
Ballet meets Jamaican dancehall, and medieval vocal polyphony meets rap in this wildly eclectic, entertaining new work by acclaimed French choreographers Bengolea and Chaignaud, who have worked with Lyon Opera Ballet and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch since getting together in 2005.
Sadler’s Wells, EC1 Monday 23 & Tuesday 24
Phoenix Dance Theatre: Windrush
Using an eclectic soundtrack of jazz, calypso, lovers rock and dub, Sharon Watson’s fine dance drama about Caribbean immigration to Britain addresses the racism and poverty that the Windrush generation encountered, but also celebrates their successes.
Peacock Theatre, WC2, Thursday 26 to 28 April
The excellent youth ensemble attached to Jasmin Vardimon Company are touring a punchy triple bill of short dance works. Pieces by Yunkyung Song and André Rebelo are completed by Vardimon’s own In Between.
Gulbenkian, Canterbury, Tuesday 24; Sadler’s Wells, EC1, Friday 27 & 28 April