Will Gompertz reviews Beverley Knight's socially distanced London Palladium show ★★★☆☆

Illustration of Beverley Knight gig Image copyright Andy Paradise/BBC

On 29 January 2020, I went to the London Palladium to see Madonna perform her Madame X show. She made the 2,297-seat theatre feel as intimate as a downtown cabaret club. She came down into the audience, sat next to fans, had a chat, swigged beer from their plastic bottles. It was all very cosy.

On Thursday, I was back at the Palladium to watch Beverley Knight and her band perform. What a difference six months make.

The shows were polar opposites. Bev was pitch-perfect, Madonna was not. Bev moved around the stage with dynamism and grace, an injured Madonna hobbled. Bev's banter had everyone cheering, Madonna's left us feeling a bit awkward.

But…

Madonna's show was better. Not because she was better, she wasn't, but because we, the audience, were better. That's nobody's fault. It's down to the wretched virus and the associated social distancing rules.

Image copyright Andy Paradise
Image caption More than 70% of the Palladium's seats were empty

Read full article Will Gompertz reviews Beverley Knight's socially distanced London Palladium show ★★★☆☆

Saint Frances: Will Gompertz reviews film by first-time writer Kelly O'Sullivan ★★★★☆

Saint Frances Image copyright Vertigo Releasing/BBC

It has taken me a while to figure out what I thought about Saint Frances, a gentle drama built around the life of Bridget (Kelly O'Sullivan), a 34-year-old waitress yet to find her purpose in life. There was something really unusual about it that kept nagging away at me that I couldn't quite put my finger on.

Was it the wry humour and andante tempo? Or was it Kelly O'Sullivan, the movie's writer and star, whose performance was so wonderfully understated and natural? Or, was it simply the novelty of seeing a new film instead of a lockdown re-run?

Read full article Saint Frances: Will Gompertz reviews film by first-time writer Kelly O'Sullivan ★★★★☆

What really happened at Nuffield Southampton Theatres?

NST City
Image caption The NST city centre theatre opened in 2018

The Nuffield Theatre in Southampton became headline news on May 6th when it filed for insolvency. The administrators blamed Covid-19 for its demise, and in so doing sent shock waves across theatreland, causing producers from London's West End to the country's regional playhouses to shudder with fear. Would they be the next victim of the pandemic? All agreed the closure was a terrible shame. But what very few knew was, it was also entirely avoidable…

Greg Palfrey is a Southampton man. He went to university in the city, then stayed in town and trained there as an auditor before deciding to specialise in insolvency… in Southampton, of course. He is still there today, more than 30 years later, heading up the Restructuring and Recovery department at Smith & Williamson, the firm of administrators overseeing the sale of the Nuffield Southampton Theatres' (NST) assets.

Read full article What really happened at Nuffield Southampton Theatres?

National Gallery: Will Gompertz reviews the UK's first major museum to reopen ★★★★★

National Gallery

I missed an appointment the other day because it took me 10 minutes to figure out how to leave Broadcasting House. My place of work has changed a bit since I last set foot in W1A pre-lockdown. A one-way system has been introduced to allow for social distancing, which is a good idea. That the job was given to a brilliant escape-room game designer is evidence that someone, somewhere has a mischievous sense of humour.

Still, better get used to it.

Read full article National Gallery: Will Gompertz reviews the UK's first major museum to reopen ★★★★★

Arthur Jafa’s video for Kanye West’s Wash Us In The Blood: Will Gompertz's review ★★★★☆

Wash Us in the Blood by Kanye West Image copyright Arthur Jafa

"If I was a betting man", my father used to say when on holiday and eyeing up an incoming storm before taking us kids on a long hill walk, "I'd wager we'll be just fine". We never were. We always got soaked. It was the Lake District. If it looks like storming, it storms. The weather doesn't bluff in Cumbria.

Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) knew that.

Read full article Arthur Jafa’s video for Kanye West’s Wash Us In The Blood: Will Gompertz's review ★★★★☆

Eurovision Song Contest: Will Gompertz reviews the new Netflix film ★★☆☆☆

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga Image copyright Netflix/BBC

You don't have to know loads about art to recognise a great piece when you see one. It hits you like a truck; like love-at-first sight. It doesn't occur often, but when it does, oh boy.

It happened to me a few years ago on one rainy afternoon when I'd ducked into a gallery to avoid a downpour. The place was showing a nine-channel video, which sounds as dreary as these things usually are, but, I reasoned, was probably marginally less awful than getting soaked. Anyway, the shower looked as though it was passing, I reckoned I could leg it after a couple of minutes. I set my expectations a notch or two below those of a tailor at a nudist camp, and entered the room in which the 52-minute multi-screen epic was being shown.

Read full article Eurovision Song Contest: Will Gompertz reviews the new Netflix film ★★☆☆☆

Bob Dylan: Will Gompertz reviews his first album of new songs in eight years ★★★★★

Bob Dylan

There is a new genre in pop music emerging. It's not coming from the housing estates of Tottenham, or the studios of LA. It hasn't stumbled out of the clubs of Ibiza, or drifted into mainstream from the back streets of Rio. It isn't radical or exciting or rebellious or loud. It is something else altogether: a form that has only just become possible, which is not down to technological progress, but the more mundane inevitability of the ageing process.

The baby-faced pop pioneers of yore; the beautiful young things who lit up a dreary post-war world, are coming to the end of their long and winding roads. It is an untrodden path. There are no precedents. It is up to those original trailblazers to define the aesthetics of an elderly star's final act.

Read full article Bob Dylan: Will Gompertz reviews his first album of new songs in eight years ★★★★★

The King of Staten Island: Will Gompertz reviews Judd Apatow's film ★★★★☆

The King of Staten Island Image copyright 2020 Universal Studios/BBC

On the face of it The King of Staten Island tells a tale so familiar it's a cliché. A young man is struggling to come to terms with adult life. He smokes a lot of weed, hangs out with a crew of equally lost souls, and starts making some ill-advised life decisions. He's not an inherently bad lad: he loves his mum, he's nice to kids (mostly), and routinely disarms with his self-deprecating charms.

You know this story, you know this person.

Read full article The King of Staten Island: Will Gompertz reviews Judd Apatow's film ★★★★☆

Friendship: Will Gompertz reviews the work by US artist Agnes Martin ★★★★★

Agnes Martin Image copyright Agnes Martin/DACS 2020/MoMA/BBC

I was looking at an online image of an abstract painting called Friendship by the late American artist Agnes Martin (1912 - 2004) when my son lent over my shoulder to take a look.

"What's it made out of? he asked

Read full article Friendship: Will Gompertz reviews the work by US artist Agnes Martin ★★★★★

The Machine Stops: Will Gompertz reviews EM Forster's work ★★★★★

The Machine Stops by EM Forster

My wife was listening to a radio programme the other day and heard a man talking about artificial intelligence. He mentioned a science fiction novella by EM Forster called The Machine Stops, published in 1909. He said it was remarkably prescient. The missus hadn't heard of it, and nor had I. Frankly, we didn't have Forster down as a sci-fi guy, more Merchant Ivory films starring Helena Bonham Carter and elegant Edwardian dresses.

We ordered a copy.

Read full article The Machine Stops: Will Gompertz reviews EM Forster's work ★★★★★