On my radar: Lucy Kirkwood’s cultural highlights

The playwright on the poetry and silliness of Aldous Harding, an inspiring new theatre in Suffolk and binge-reading Saba Sams’s short stories

The playwright and screenwriter Lucy Kirkwood was born in east London in 1983. She studied English at Edinburgh, where she wrote and starred in her first play. Kirkwood is perhaps best known for Chimerica, about the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square protests, which opened at the Almeida in 2013 and won best new play at the Olivier awards. She has also written for TV, contributing to Skins and adapting Chimerica for Channel 4 in 2019. Her latest play, That Is Not Who I Am, written under the pseudonym Dave Davidson, is at the Royal Court until 16 July.

1. Poetry

Poor by Caleb Femi

The poet Caleb Femi.
‘So good it makes me a bit angry’: Caleb Femi. Photograph: Hannah Young/REX/Shutterstock

An impulse-buy that’s so good it makes me a bit angry, which is the highest compliment I can give any writing. It is poems and photographs about growing up on a Peckham estate, but while there is devastating lament and political fury here, the feel of the thing as a whole is a celebratory ode to a group of people in a certain place. Every line of imagery is beautifully wrought, and it is so full of laughter, desire, emotional acuity and deft indictments of how racism permeates every layer of life. It is just exhilarating.

2. TV

Party Down (Starz)

Adam Scott and Kristen Bell in Party Down.
Adam Scott and Kristen Bell in Party Down. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy

I love the first two seasons of this show with a burning passion and was really excited to hear they are producing a new season. It has got a load of people who have since become more famous, such as Adam Scott and Lizzy Caplan. It follows the staff of an LA catering company who are all desperately trying to make it in some way and largely failing. Each week you get to be in a completely different world, including, memorably, Steve Guttenberg’s 40th birthday. While relentlessly funny, it also contains some of the most tragic scenes I have ever seen on TV.

3. Music

Aldous Harding

Watch the video for Fever by Aldous Harding.

The New Zealand artist is number one in our house right now – my husband has played Fever [from Harding’s latest album, Warm Chris] so many times to our two-year-old that she now sings along with the chorus. I think silliness is a highly underrated quality in art and I adore the fact she can sing lyrics like “show the ferret to the egg” with a straight face. But the music is also poetic and plangent, and her videos are extraordinary: sometimes theatrical, sometimes cinematic, but always breathtaking.

4. Place

Wakelyns Farm, Suffolk

Dr Martin Wolfe of Wakelyns Farm.
Dr Martin Wolfe of Wakelyns Farm. Photograph: Anthony Cullen/The Guardian

This agroforestry farm in Suffolk is a beautiful place and a source of hope that we might find ways to grow food in this country that don’t depend on monoculture and pesticides. The aerial maps of it are so arresting – it is a small oasis of avenues of trees inter-planted with mixed crops. They have open days throughout the year including tree walks, bird walks and apple days, and in recent years [baker and cookery writer] Henrietta Inman has opened a really wonderful bakery there.

Send Nudes by Saba Sams

5. Fiction

Send Nudes by Saba Sams

I nicked this collection of short stories from my husband before he could read it and inhaled it in two or three late-night sessions, which is an act of foolhardy love when you have a toddler who gets up at 5am. By the end of the first paragraph, you know Sams is the real deal. The stories are all about female characters, and while they contain desolation and trauma, there is not a sniff of lazy sentimentality or surrender anywhere, just sensual, witty, audacious, belligerent, dangerous brilliance.

6. Architecture

Thorington theatre, Suffolk

Thorington Theatre in the Woods.
Thorington theatre: ‘for a playwright it is a very inspiring place’. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

We saw a fantastic standup set by Simon Amstell at this new theatre on the Suffolk coast last summer, and if I hadn’t been at my own press night this month I would have watched Daniel Kitson there for sure. But the structure itself is a thing of beauty. It is an open-air amphitheatre set in a woodland and constructed so thoughtfully – trees still grow through the space and the amps are mounted on trunks. For a playwright it is a very inspiring place.


Killian Fox

The GuardianTramp

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