Five of the best … films
The Goldfinch (15)
(John Crowley, 2019, US) 149 mins
Donna Tartt’s celebrated 2013 novel makes it to the big screen, with Ansel Elgort in the lead role of Theo, the kid caught up in an art museum bombing during which his mother is killed, who then purloins the celebrated masterwork of the title. Perhaps unfairly, having posted a big loss on its US release, the film has been pegged as a disaster, but it is likely to get a better reception in the UK.
The Last Tree (15)
(Shola Amoo, 2019, UK) 99 mins
British-Nigerian director Shola Amoo returns with this semi-autobiographical period film with a twist about a young boy torn between three distinct identities: the rural Lincolnshire community where he was fostered; the tough London estate where he grew up after his birth mother reclaimed him; and, finally, the traditional Nigerian family he came from.
Ad Astra (12A)
(James Gray, 2019, Chi/Bra/US) 123 mins
Brad Pitt has attracted plenty of admiring notices for this slow, serious but mighty space film. He plays an astronaut who embarks on a Conradian journey into the far reaches of the solar system, attempting to track down his missing father, who had left planet Earth years before to set up a secret project on Neptune.
Best Before Death (12A)
(Paul Duane, 2019, US/UK/Ire) 93 mins
Irish documentary-maker Paul Duane has an affinity with maverick music-industry types – witness his 2012 doc Very Extremely Dangerous, about C&W-singing bankrobber Jerry McGill – and here his subject, or more accurately, collaborator, is Bill Drummond of the KLF. Duane follows Drummond on his world tour, first to Kolkata and then Lexington, giving cakes to strangers, listening to music, and getting shaved.
The Third Man (PG)
(Carol Reed, 1949 UK) 104 mins
This postwar masterwork is a conflation of brilliant talents: a haunting Graham Greene script, beautifully fluid direction by Carol Reed, and knockout performances from Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. It also transmits a mood of palpable unease as Europe remade itself after the second world war: Welles’s Harry Lime stages his fake death after attracting the attention of the authorities over his black-market activities.
Five of the best … rock & pop
Despite none of her recent singles building on the success of 2017’s breakthrough banger, the storming electropop of Chasing Highs, Finland’s Alma is scooping up a solid catalogue of co-writes, including three Miley Cyrus songs. She also mucked in on Cyrus’s recent blockbuster collaborative pile-up with Ariana and Lana, Don’t Call Me Angel.
Patterns, Brighton, Tuesday 1; Electric Ballroom, NW1, Wednesday 2; Academy 2, Manchester, Thursday 3; touring to 6 October
Since quitting school at 16 to teach themself guitar, Beth Jeans Houghton, who identifies as non-binary, has been restlessly creative. As well as releasing two EPs and an album under their own name, they’ve since released two albums of scratchy, anxiety-ridden rock as Du Blonde. Oh and also created a comic-book series, Butt Hurt, and directed a Red Hot Chili Peppers video.
Moth Club, E9, Wednesday 2 October
Current album Hoodies All Summer – the follow-up to 2016’s Mercury-nominated Made in the Manor – finds Kano further cementing his grime pioneer status as well as pushing his genre experimentation. Flitting between Trouble’s furious treatise on living in a modern-day war zone, to Pan-Fried’s steel drum-assisted party anthem, it is an album anchored by his typically dexterous, rapid-fire delivery.
Glasgow, Wednesday 2; Manchester, Friday 4; touring to 7 October
On his first album in five years, Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, the singer-songwriter Bill Callahan, formerly known as Smog, draws on the changes in his life, musing on marriage and new parenthood. Sounds boring, right? But actually, as autumn creeps in, it all becomes quite lovely.
Dublin, Sunday 29 September; Edinburgh, Tuesday 1; Manchester, Wednesday 2; London, Thursday 3 October
Herts jazz festival
The ninth Herts jazz festival weekender, imaginatively steered by the fine drummer Clark Tracey, presents over a dozen bands with distinctive angles from bebop to contemporary. A major creative highlight are the Mercury-nominated Dinosaur quartet led by Laura Jurd, the young trumpeter-composer who cannot help expanding the jazz envelope with every passing year.
Rhodes Arts Complex and Bishop’s Stortford Museum, Saturday 28 & Sunday 29 September
Three of the best … classical concerts
A Hundred Years Ago
Kirill Karabits caused a musicological flurry last year when he conducted the premiere of Sardanapalo, an unknown, unfinished Liszt opera. Now he’s unearthed another Liszt rarity. Vor Hundert Jahren (A Hundred Years Ago) is an orchestral melodrama, first performed in 1859, to celebrate the centenary of Schiller’s birth, with words by Friedrich Halm and a score that incorporates popular songs of the day. This Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s performance sandwiches it between Hummel and Strauss.
Lighthouse, Poole, Wednesday 2; Cadogan Hall, SW1, Friday 4 October
William Alwyn’s operatic adaptation of Strindberg’s play has had a chequered history. Although it is regarded as one of Alwyn’s most substantial achievements, Miss Julie has received few performances since its premiere in a BBC broadcast in 1977. It is the corporation that is reviving it now; Sakari Oramo conducts the BBC Symphony Orchestra in a concert staging by Kenneth Richardson.
Barbican Hall, EC2, Thursday 3 October
Howard Skempton has composed relatively little orchestral music, but Lento, the magically restrained chorale-based piece first performed in 1991, has become his best-known work, and is recognised as one of the finest British orchestral scores of its time.
Guildhall, Derry, Thursday 3; Ulster Hall, Belfast, Friday 4 October
Five of the best … exhibitions
Expect an epic and harrowing vision of American history from one of the best artists ever to work in the Tate’s Turbine Hall space. Walker creates stark and violent silhouette dramas that uncover the racial injustice of America’s past and present. Her imagistic, narrative art should make for a moving and involving immersion in southern gothic.
Tate Modern, SE1, Wednesday 2 October to 5 April
The glory days of the Turner prize are long gone, perhaps because there is less excitement in British art than there was in its 90s heyday, but it still reveals interesting artists you almost certainly haven’t heard of. This year’s batch are Helen Cammock , Oscar Murillo, Lawrence Abu Hamdan and Tai Shani.
Turner Contemporary, Margate, Saturday 28 September to 12 January
This great US painter who lived in Rome mixed lush colours, rich historical references and rude graffiti to create haunting meditations on love, war and time. His sculptures are steeped in memory and myth. Made of bits of wood and scrap and covered with ethereal paint, they look like archaeological finds. They speak of magic and the occult and a universal human memory bank of suffering and desire.
Gagosian Grosvenor Hill, W1, Monday 30 September to 21 December
Art Beyond Limits
The artists in this exhibition are all battling motor neurone disease yet creating images of beauty and power. Simon Adams takes photographs of landscape and light that are impressive by any criteria – and incredible when you know he is paralysed from the neck down. Susan Ezekiel similarly uses eyegaze technology to make digital paintings while Dr Peter Scott-Morgan uses AI to overcome his condition. Just three of the heroic individuals on show.
Gallery@Oxo, Wednesday 2 to 6 October
Rembrandt and Star Wars may seem an unlikely combination but cinematographer Peter Suschitzky, who photographed The Empire Strikes Back, has helped create this immersive experience that plunges you into his world. Rembrandt explores darkness and inner light in a unique, heartbreaking way. Works include Philemon and Baucis, and of course, Esther Before Jabba the Hutt.
Dulwich Picture Gallery, SE21, Wednesday 2 October to 2 February
Five of the best … theatre shows
A Day in the Death of Joe Egg
Peter Nichols, who recently passed away, drew on his own experience of raising a severely disabled daughter when writing his most popular play. It is arguably his best work, packed with truthful moments and dark pockets of humour. Claire Skinner and Toby Stephens star, and should prove a dramatically powerful duo. Simon Evans directs.
Trafalgar Studios 1, SW1, to 30 November
Dublin theatre festival
Dublin theatre festival is always great but is particularly strong this year. There is a reworking of Hecuba from Marina Carr; The Beacon, a haunting new play from Nancy Harris; Faultline, an LGBTQ-themed immersive show from ANU; and Dead Centre with a play without performers. That’s just for starters.
Various venues, to 13 October
I can still remember Yael Farber’s electric version of The Crucible at the Old Vic in vivid detail. The South African director has such a talent for making old classics burn anew – and should team up brilliantly with the haunting playwright Marina Carr. There will be plenty for them to play with in Lorca’s blood-soaked tragedy, which sees a broken wedding vow unleash the vengeance of an entire village.
Young Vic, SE1, to 2 November
The Last King of Scotland
Kevin McDonald’s 2006 movie bagged Forest Whitaker an Oscar and was powerful stuff. Now Steve Waters is bringing this tale of corruption and complicity, set in Idi Amin’s Uganda, to the stage. The play focuses on the relationship between self-declared president Amin and his personal physician, Scottish medic Nicholas Garrigan. But whose interests is Garrigan really serving? Tobi Bamtefa (Barber Shop Chronicles) plays Amin and Gbolahan Obisesan directs.
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, to 19 October
Our Lady of Kibeho
Katori Hall’s latest play earned rave reviews on its premiere in Northampton. James Dacre, who also staged Hall’s The Mountaintop, directs. The play is based on a true story and is set in Rwanda, three years before the genocide of 1994. Three schoolgirls claim they have been visited by the Virgin Mary, and have foreseen a terrible future for their country. But are these girls telling the truth, and can they trust anyone not to turn away from their vision?
Theatre Royal Stratford East, E15, to 2 November
Three of the best … dance shows
Dada Masilo: Giselle
Soweto-born choreographer Dada Masilo rewrites the rules of one of the all-time great 19th-century ballets, Giselle, by transporting it to her native South Africa, and mixing ballet with contemporary and African dance. Masilo also performs the title role, turning the vulnerable peasant girl into a fiery heroine for our times.
Sadler’s Wells, EC1, Friday 4 to 5 October. Then touring until 4 November.
Scottish Ballet: The Crucible
Fresh from an acclaimed premiere in Edinburgh, choreographer Helen Pickett’s ballet of the Arthur Miller play goes on tour. Her clever, atmospheric take on the Salem witch trials is a triumph. The tour continues to Inverness and Edinburgh.
Glasgow, Saturday 28 September; Aberdeen, Thursday 3; touring to 5 October
Diversity: Born Ready
It is 10 years since Diversity won Britain’s Got Talent and they celebrate with a huge tour. There’s since been an explosion of similar groups, but when it comes to slick acrobatic entertainment, Ashley Banjo’s crew know what they’re doing.
Blackpool, Saturday 28; Gateshead, Sunday 29 September; York, Tuesday 1; Carlisle, Wednesday 2; Coventry, Thursday 3; Hull, Friday 4 October