Five of the best … films
(Michael Winterbottom, 2019, UK) 104 mins
This has been bubbling under for a while: Steve Coogan rejoins 24 Hour Party People/A Cock and Bull Story director Michael Winterbottom for a mockumentary satire on the super-rich. Coogan plays a tycoon who bears a not-entirely-accidental resemblance to Topshop’s Philip Green. He is throwing a themed party on a Greek island; we can safely conclude that things will not go smoothly.
The Call of the Wild (PG)
(Chris Sanders, 2020, US) 100 mins
Jack London’s classic dog story gets a makeover, with Harrison Ford as the grumpy old mountain man who takes on an escaped St Bernard-collie. Heartwarming stuff, even if the central mutt is CGI’d up the wazoo.
(Autumn de Wilde, 2020, UK) 125 mins
This Jane Austen adaptation with the superfluous full stop has won plenty of admirers for its easy charm, ballasted by a smart performance by Anya Taylor-Joy as the wannabe matchmaker of the title who finds love herself in an unexpected place. Johnny Flynn plays the dashing Mr Knightley; Bill Nighy, Miranda Hart and Rupert Graves also star.
Midnight Family (15)
(Luke Lorentzen, 2019, Mex) 79 mins
We all know the arguments over the NHS and the perils of switching to US-style health insurance: this doc about an ambulance operator in Mexico City takes things up a gear. Incredibly, this is a family business, its owners scrambling to beat rival firms to the scene of an accident; it’s necessary, as fewer than four dozen public ambulances serve 9 million people. It’s also a precarious occupation, with bribe-demanding police and erratic fees to deal with.
Sonic the Hedgehog (PG)
(Jeff Fowler, 2019, US/Jap/Can) 99 mins
Once we’ve all got over Sonic-trailer-gate, we should remember there is a film behind all the uproar: a goofy, smartmouthed video game adaptation, which has shoehorned the bright blue hedgie into a wacky road trip with a not-too-bright cop (James Marsden). The headline news is that Jim Carrey, as Dr Robotnik/Eggman, is back, a well-overdue return to the limelight.
Four of the best … rock, pop & jazz
Born in Nigeria, Steven Umoh, AKA Obongjayar, grew up listening to bootleg US rap mixtapes before a move to the UK saw him focusing more on his Nigerian roots. His playful fusions of numerous genres, from Afrobeat to electronica, have caught the attention of fellow pioneers Richard Russell and the rapper Danny Brown.
Manchester, Sunday 23; Bristol, Monday 24; London, Wednesday 26 February
When he is not producing songs for the likes of Camila Cabello or Halsey, Norway’s Magnus Høiberg, AKA Cashmere Cat, has a sideline crafting slightly more left-of-centre pop. While his debut album, 9, featured the likes of Ariana Grande and Selena Gomez, last year’s playful follow-up replaced the big names with the titular superhero Princess Catgirl.
Omeara, SE1, Thursday 27 February
If you want to know what Brooklyn alt-rock quartet Big Thief sound like live but can’t be bothered to leave the house, just have a listen to their fourth album – and second of 2019 – Two Hands. Recorded live, with all but two songs featuring no extra vocal overdubs, it has been described with slight understatement by their frontwoman Adrianne Lenker as “bare-boned”, but is all the more powerful for that.
Eventim Apollo, W6, Thursday 27 February; touring to 2 March
American pianist Craig Taborn has played with cutting-edge jazz greats from the late Lester Bowie to contemporary leaders Tim Berne and Dave Douglas. But he plays this gig as an unaccompanied alchemist of haunting whispered passages, contrapuntal cascades, ballad-like moods and Thelonious Monk-ish ruggedness, the setting that best reveals his long-honed mastery.
The Vortex, N16, Friday 28 February
Three of the best … classical concerts
Denis & Katya
Philip Venables’s first opera, 4.48 Psychosis, based on Sarah Kane’s final play, was much admired when it was staged four years ago. His second, Denis & Katya, arrives in the UK after an award-winning premiere in Philadelphia last September. With a libretto by director Ted Huffman, and scored for just two singers, four cellos, video and electronics, it’s the real-life story of two Russian runaways, whose web broadcasts of their final days together became a social media sensation. In this Music Theatre Wales production, mezzo Emily Edmonds and baritone Johnny Herford are joined by London Sinfonietta cellists.
The Riverfront, Newport, Thursday 27 February; touring to 27 March
BBC Symphony Orchestra Total Immersion: Anders Hillborg
Anders Hillborg’s music polarises opinions. To some, it is iridescent and inventive, to others it’s contrived surface glitz. Anyone undecided can make up their mind at this day devoted to Hillborg’s works. There is vocal and chamber music as well as a programme from the BBC SO, under Sakari Oramo, of six works, three of them UK premieres, including Hillborg’s first violin concerto and his clarinet concerto, Peacock Tales.
Barbican Hall, St Giles Cripplegate Church & Milton Court, EC2, Saturday 22 February
Wales’s contemporary music group is the brainchild of conductor Michael Rafferty. Its latest concert includes three commissioned scores, from Sarah Lianne Lewis, Bethan Morgan-Williams and Andrew Lewis. But there are contemporary “classics” too, by Tristan Murail, Kaija Saariaho and Fausto Romitelli.
Chapter: Seligman Theatre, Cardiff, Friday 28 February
Five of the best … exhibitions
David Hockney’s life in art is one long steady gaze. Before he paints, he draws – and sets out to draw exactly who he sees. This exhibition of some of his most intimate drawings of people – ranging from the 1950s to the present day – takes us into his world and shows how he transforms it into line and colour. A precious encounter with a modern master.
National Portrait Gallery, WC2, Thursday 27 February to 28 June
Experimental, arrogant and bursting with genius, the young Rembrandt van Rijn was quite a character. His peasant-like face, doughy and unsymmetrical, bursts out of his early self-portraits as he makes his way in the competitive Dutch art market. He declares himself a painter like no other, rawer yet also grander: a true visionary.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Thursday 27 February to 7 June
Dada collagist Linder worked with the Buzzcocks in 1970s Manchester and has never gone straight. Her photomontage covers for their records mocked sex and gender identity. Her twisted, cut-up images still explore power, fantasy and liberation in unsettling, exciting ways. Pop theorists have compared punk with the dissonant strategies of early 20th-century modern art. Linder lives that history and is one of British art’s true iconoclasts.
Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, to 26 April
Meet Vincent van Gogh Experience
Two centuries after its golden age, Dutch art once again produced a genius as profound as Rembrandt. Van Gogh’s path in life was stony, his vision won in the face of madness. Meeting him would be quite an experience, but this walk-through sound and light show devised by Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum is more a cursory introduction than a rapturous encounter. Best enjoyed as a preliminary to seeing his Sunflowers in the National Gallery.
99 Upper Ground, SE1, to 21 May
Rembrandt was not only a great artist but a hugely effective teacher. Perhaps too effective. How do you escape the influence of one of the most powerful styles in art? Nicolaes Maes, one of his many students, fought his master’s shadow by fixing his eyes on simple things, the humble moments of the everyday. Here are kitchens and yards, pets and porcelain: the stuff of life.
The National Gallery, WC2, Sat to 31 May
Five of the best … theatre shows
The Prince of Egypt
Big new musical klaxon! But this musical is not just big, it’s epic. It is an adaptation of the DreamWorks animated film about the Old Testament life of Moses (see: Red Sea parting, plagues etc). Stephen Schwartz, the composer of Wicked, has added 10 new songs to his original score, which includes the belter When You Believe. Luke Brady and Liam Tamne play Moses and Ramses, respectively.
Dominion Theatre, W1, to 12 September
The Boy in the Dress
An adaptation of David Walliams’s first book, about a young lad who loves football – and dresses – this RSC musical has received gleefully enthusiastic reviews, and is only on for a few more weeks. Mark Ravenhill adapts, with music by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers. The whole show glows with wit and heart.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, to 8 March
The Special Relationship
Based on real-life stories, this new play from Hassan Abdulrazzak (Baghdad Wedding) is about British prisoners deported from the US after serving their sentences. The show is presented by a wise-cracking immigration officer and is as bonkers as it is brutal (it even includes a tango between Trump and May). It is directed by Esther Baker of Synergy Theatre Project, a company that works across the criminal justice system.
Soho Theatre, W1, Wednesday 26 February to 21 March
Run Sister Run
A new play bursting with female talent: written by Chloë Moss – a playwright of great integrity and emotional depth – and directed by Charlotte Bennett, with a cast that includes Lucy Ellinson and Helena Lymbery. It spans 40 years and is about two sisters whose lives veer off in very different directions. Nature knocks up against nurture, as the siblings struggle to stay close.
Crucible Studio, Sheffield, Thursday 27 February to 21 March
Women Beware Women
This could get bloody. Thomas Middleton’s brutal tragedy plays for the very first time at the Globe. It is set in the flamboyant Florentine court, where passions flare up and relationships crumble and curdle. Loyalties are tested, and lovers and family members betrayed in this bed-hopping, eye-popping, taboo-breaking whirlwind. Amy Hodge directs a strong cast, which includes Tara Fitzgerald, Olivia Vinall and Thalissa Teixeira.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, SE1, to 18 April
Three of the best … dance shows
Viviana Durante Company: Isadora Now
Prancing around the drawing rooms of Europe’s artistic elite at the turn of the 20th century, Isadora Duncan set dance on a new path with her radical performances, liberated from the restrictive corset of classical ballet. Former Royal Ballet star Viviana Durante celebrates the free-spirited American dancer in a triple bill of historical and new works.
Barbican Theatre, EC2, to 29 February
Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan: 13 Tongues & Dust
It’s all change for the stunning Taiwanese contemporary dance company as founder Lin Hwai-min retires after 47 years and Cheng Tsung-lung takes over. This double bill looks to past and future with a work by each: Lin’s Dust and Cheng’s 13 Tongues.
Sadler’s Wells, EC1, Wednesday 26 to 29 February
Akram Khan Company: Chotto Xenos
Khan’s acclaimed solo Xenos, which explored the role of colonial soldiers in the first world war, is given a reworking by children’s theatre specialist Sue Buckmaster to create an evocative, child-friendly dance work for ages eight and over.
Ipswich, Saturday 22; Bristol, Friday 28 February to 1 March; touring to 11 March
Main composite image: (clockwise from left) Sonic the Hedgehog; Greed; Linderism; The Call of the Wild; Obongjayar