Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

19 June 2015

THEATRE: The Elephant Man, London

“It’s all about the power of the imagination so that you are crossing the footlights, investing in his distress – his deformities – it works on the imagination, which is what theatre is about”

deformities – it works on the imagination, which is what theatre is about” Matt Wolf, theatre critic

Who’d have thought that dough-eyed Hollywood romcom magnet Bradley Cooper would have had the stage chops to pull off a story as harrowing and profound as The Elephant Man? Cooper is currently impressing critics with his transformative interpretation of the life of disfigured Victorian englishman Joseph Merrick at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket. Directed by Rufus Norris, Cooper’s feat is all the more impressive in that no prosthetics are used onstage at all – letting both the personality of Merrick and the performance of Cooper resonate naturally.

MUSIC: Leon Bridges, Coming Home

“The songs are traditional and very well structured but it’s that voice that just reminds you of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and all those people”

Will Hodgkinson, rock and pop critic, ‘The Times’

Leon Bridges is bringing classic soul music back to the forefront of the US pop scene with his debut album Coming Home. The legend goes (according to his record label, anyway) that this time last year Bridges was washing dishes in Fort Worth, Texas, when fellow Texan psychedelic rockers White Denim plucked him from obscurity. Coming Home’s attention to authentic 1960s detail – from the rough-hewn crackle of the record’s sound to Bridges’ nipple-high breeches – makes it an escapist joy to listen to. But you do wonder whether this old soul might also have to eventually say something about today, too.

ART: ART: Agnes Martin, London

“Most people have encountered her in books and perhaps smaller collections so it really is exciting to have her given a big show at last”

Fisun Guner, visual arts editor, ‘The Arts Desk’

Canadian-born Agnes Martin’s minimalist abstract paintings are now on show at Tate Modern in London. The artist, who died in 2004, often focused on geometric lines and grids but with each painting becoming a more distilled, concentrated vision of the last. Martin suffered from schizophrenia and some critics interpret her regimented commitment to form as an act of meditative self-control. But perhaps these works also demonstrate the talent of a painter who revelled in taking the creative journey as well as seeing the finished canvas.

BOOK: Instrumental by James Rhodes

“The book really tells an incredible story of how essentially music saved his life and it’s written with incredible honesty and wonderful humour even if sometimes it’s very hard to read because it’s so painful”

Clare Conville, literary agent

British concert-pianist James Rhodes’ autobiography Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication and Music by James Rhodes tackles his troubled upbringing during which he was abused as a youth and tells the story of how music offered solace to the young musician. Rhodes not only faced the challenge of confronting disturbing memories while writing the book but also had to win a court battle to get it published, so each word of this story – one that is both harrowing and life-affirming – is loaded with meaning and has fought its way to the page.

FILM: London Road

“We sort of trust Olivia Coleman, she’s so sympathetic and there’s kind of a sadness to her even in comedy, you kind of believe everything she’s saying”

Tim Robey, film critic for ‘The Telegraph’

London Road is an adaptation of the controversial stage musical of the same name, which tells the story of a real-life, serial-killer mystery that occurred in Ipswich, UK, in 2006. For the film version Olivia Coleman takes the lead role in a talented cast that includes a cameo from Tom Hardy, whose deft performances make the heavy subject matter satisfying to watch. A special highlight is the unique use of real-life interview tapes as the basis for the score, which adds a peculiarly English tone to this most unusual of successes.

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