Five of the best ... films
(Adam McKay, 2018, US) 132 mins
Christian Bale’s oleaginous impersonation of Dick Cheney, vice president to George W Bush and apparent architect of the “war on terror”, has won him plenty of friends – including the Church of Satan – and consequent awards action. Adam McKay’s entertaining comedy throws a light on the recent past but also, rather obviously, shows how we got to where we are now, knee-deep in the Trump era.
(Karyn Kusama, 2018, US) 121 mins
Nicole Kidman achieves a remarkable transformation in this bruising cop thriller from Girlfight director Kusama: a battered, exhausted investigator tracking down a set of gang members who, it transpires, were responsible for the death of her partner. Convoluted and full of flashbacks, this is an entertaining watch, with Kidman committing fully.
The Favourite (15)
(Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018, Ire/UK/US) 119 mins
Still arguably the best thing out there; if you haven’t seen this glorious reinvention of the period movie, then don’t miss the chance. A foul-mouthed, grotesquely envisioned dissection of power politics in the early 18th century, it boasts three great performances – from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone – and a radical visual style that complements and reinforces it.
Bergman: A Year in a Life (15)
(Jane Magnusson, 2018, Swe/Nor) 117 mins
The year being 1957, during which Swedish director Ingmar Bergman released two masterpieces – The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries – as well as directing a TV film and staging four theatre shows. Magnusson inspects this microcosmal 12 months to examine Bergman’s working methods and personal relationship with his output. A fascinating document.
Mary Queen of Scots (15)
(Josie Rourke, 2018, UK) 124 mins
The “other” power-play period film: a real-life game of thrones in the 16th century. Mary makes a push for the English crown but is snuffed out by her cousin, Elizabeth I. Long one of Hollywood’s favourite history subjects, this isn’t as radical as The Favourite but is another fine performance showcase, particularly from Saoirse Ronan as Mary.
Five of the best ... rock & pop
Nigerian Afrobeats pioneer David Adeleke, AKA Davido, recently claimed his plan was to retire by the age of 30, which only gives him four more years to build on a career that has already seen him cement his crossover status via collaborations with the likes of Rae Sremmurd, Meek Mill and DJ Mustard. Oh, and, as of tomorrow, a performance at one of the biggest arenas in the UK.
The 02, SE10, Sunday 27 January
To mark the 20th anniversary of 1998’s Mezzanine, Bristol boffins Massive Attack encoded the album into DNA (!) and then released it in the form of a matt-black spray paint can. A nod to the rumour that the band’s 3D is actually Banksy? Perhaps. They are also celebrating the album’s legacy with these shows, featuring vocalist Liz Fraser.
Glasgow, Monday 28; Manchester, Tuesday 29 January; touring to 2 March
East London rapper Ghetts has a had a pretty varied career. Having made his name as part of grime collectives NASTY Crew and then later the Movement alongside Wretch 32, he made a lunge for the mainstream in 2011 via a long-forgotten collaboration with X Factor finalist Cher Lloyd. Recent singles Preach and Black Rose have thankfully seen him return to his more intricately poetic flow.
Islington Assembly Hall, N1, Wednesday 30 & Thursday 31 January; touring to 5 February
Heralded as a “scowling and shellshocked response to Trump’s America”, Low’s rapturously received 12th album Double Negative warped the slowcore trio’s trademark sound in ways they had only hinted at previously, creating an organ-displacing cacophony perfect for uncertain times. Brace yourselves, basically.
Glasgow, Tuesday 29; Birmingham, Wednesday 30; Brighton, Thursday 31 January; London, Friday 1 February
Around 2010, young Armenian pianist-composer Tigran Hamasyan looked like a fledgling pop-jazz star, but his country’s folk traditions are his real love. These gigs – with a choir, plus trumpet master Arve Henriksen on Sunday – showcase the rich mix of jazz, classical music, hip-hop and spacey vocals of his album An Ancient Observer.
The Sage, Gateshead, Saturday 26; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Sunday 27 January
Three of the best ... classical concerts
Until very recently, anyone in Britain who wanted to hear anything of Swiss composer Jürg Frey’s fragile, evanescent music had to make a pilgrimage to the Huddersfield contemporary music festival, where his pieces are performed regularly. Now, though, Cafe Oto is devoting a day to his works, with the composer joined by cellist Anton Lukoszevieze in the first concert, followed by an evening of his electronic music.
Cafe Oto, E8, Sunday 27 January
Vladimir Jurowski is measuring out the final years of his tenure as the London Philharmonic’s principal conductor with a Ring cycle – one semi-staged instalment each year until he steps down in 2021. It is Die Walküre this time, though with Markus Marquardt as Wotan and Claudia Mahnke as Fricka there’s no connection with the cast of last year’s Rheingold. The Siegmund and Sieglinde are Stuart Skelton and Ruxandra Donose.
Royal Festival Hall, SE1, Sunday 27 January
St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra
The St Petersburg Philharmonic is Russia’s longest-established orchestra and one of the most distinguished in Europe. It has had just two chief conductors in the last 80 years; the current boss Yuri Temirkanov has been in charge since 1988 and he leads it on this extensive UK tour. Russian music – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Shostakovich – dominates the programmes, with pianist Freddy Kempf and violinist Julia Fischer as the concerto soloists.
Gateshead, Saturday 26; Edinburgh, Sunday 27; London, Tuesday 29; Birmingham, Thursday 31 January; Manchester, Friday 1; Leeds, 2; Basingstoke, 3 February
Five of the best ... exhibitions
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing
The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci are the most direct windows on his genius: a unique mind who explored life, the universe and everything while also casually displaying the greatest graphic talent of all time. This mega-event spreads his masterpieces from the royal collection cross-country from Belfast to Bristol, Cardiff to Glasgow.
Various venues, nationwide, Friday 1 February to 6 May
Katie Paterson & JMW Turner
Conceptual artist Paterson is fascinated by outer space. Her cosmic meditations range from meteorite sculptures to working with Nasa to imagine what Titan smells like. Turner, too, was drawn to the stars – or one of them, at least. His obsession with the sun gives his paintings a haunting sense of our planet’s journey through space.
Turner Contemporary, Margate, Sat to 6 May
The video art of Bill Viola is full of spiritual ambition. He dives deep, often literally: images of bodies sinking and rising are among the ways he evokes the soul alongside ethereal flames and portrayals of meditation. But can his art really bear comparison with the drawings of Michelangelo? The intensity with which the sculptor delineates striving bodies goes way beyond Viola. This pairing risks glibness.
Royal Academy of Arts, W1, Saturday 26 January to 31 March
There has never been another art critic as gifted as Ruskin, the Victorian writer who championed Turner and anticipated Marx on capitalism. Ruskin made his arguments in cascades of rhetorical prose, using his interest in geology as well as art history to give his books polymathic power. He was also a keen artist, and his studies of rocks and architecture provide plenty to look at in this survey of a genius.
Two Temple Place, WC2, Saturday 26 January to 22 April
La Caixa Collection of Contemporary Art
There’s some good stuff in novelist Enrique Vila-Matas’s choice from a Spanish bank’s art collection – just not enough of it. A chilly painting by Gerhard Richter of his former wife Isa Genzken leaves you numbed and disturbed. More shock and anxiety is stirred by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s cell-like video installation in which a child appears to be imprisoned with her thoughts.
Whitechapel Gallery, E1, to 28 April
Five of the best ... theatre shows
Cost of Living
There will always be a buzz when Adrian Lester treads the boards, such is his magnetic presence on stage. Lester makes his Hampstead Theatre debut in artistic director Edward Hall’s swansong season. He stars as an unemployed truck driver caring for his estranged, disabled wife, Ani, in Martyna Majok’s edgy and probing Pulitzer prize-winning play.
Hampstead Theatre, NW3, to 9 March
Pinter at the Pinter: A Slight Ache & The Dumb Waiter
Jamie Lloyd’s stunning Pinter odyssey comes to a close with a couple of short, sharp and eerie plays. The Dumb Waiter sees two hitmen warily await their next target. In A Slight Ache, a couple’s pleasant evening descends into chaos. Martin Freeman and Pinter superfan Danny Dyer star.
The Harold Pinter Theatre, SW1, Thursday 31 January to 23 February
The Shadow Factory
Howard Brenton’s wartime drama opened the City arts complex last year, and now returns to celebrate the venue’s one-year anniversary. The play unfurls in the smog and smoke of Southampton in 1940. When the Germans bomb the city’s pivotal Spitfire factories, the community must find a way to fight back. The show features a 25-strong community company and is lit up by blazing projections from visual technology pros 59 Productions.
Nuffield Theatre: City, Southampton, Wednesday 30 January to 2 March
Home, I’m Darling
Laura Wade’s biting satire sweeps into the West End. Wade is never knowingly under-subversive and this time she takes a swipe at the idea of domestic perfection and wifely devotion. Katherine Parkinson stars as Judy who, having been made redundant, transforms the family home into a 50s haven. But the fantasy sours and it isn’t long before Judy is trapped in a perfectly kitsch prison of her own making.
The Duke of York’s, WC2, Saturday 26 January to 13 April
My Name Is Lucy Barton
Following an agonisingly short run last year, My Name Is Lucy Barton returns. Rona Munro deftly adapts Elizabeth Strout’s stunning novel, which sees a mother and daughter tentatively reach out to each other during a series of sleepless nights in hospital. The play is written as a one-woman monologue, which Laura Linney absolutely owns. Assisted by Richard Eyre’s sensitive direction, Linney offers up a considered yet natural performance.
Bridge Theatre, SE1, to 16 February
Three of the best ... dance shows
Rosie Kay Dance Company: 5 Soldiers – The Body Is the Front Line
Choreographer Rosie Kay went on real-life battle exercises with 4th Battalion the Rifles during her research for this excellent, evocative and thumpingly physical work about the lives of modern-day soldiers, and the impact of training and conflict on their bodies and identities.
Salisbury Arts Centre, Thursday 31 January & Friday 1 February; touring to 3 April
Yorke Dance Project: Twenty
Yolande Yorke-Edgell attracts great dancers and repertoire to her small company. This 20th-anniversary tour features a new work by the legend that is Robert Cohan and the first ever revival of Kenneth MacMillan’s Playground from 1979.
Pavilion Dance South West, Bournemouth, Thursday 31 January & Friday 1 February; touring to 26 April
Gandini Juggling & Alexander Whitley: Spring
Even if you think you don’t like juggling, the Gandinis are the people to turn you on to the fine art of tossing things in the air and catching them, especially when combined with the artful choreography of Alexander Whitley.
Sadler’s Wells, EC1, Thursday 31 January to 2 February