The good, the bad and the ugly in books, exhibitions, cinema, TV, dance, music, podcasts and theatre.

Why I fell out of love with Wagner

Arts feature

It’s four years since I gave up opera criticism. The pandemic had struck, I had hit a significant birthday, and notched up three decades at the coal face – a quarter of a century at the Telegraph, and an earlier stint at this address. There were other things I wanted to do and after reviewing

The beauty of pollution


On the back of the British £20 note, J.M.W. Turner appears against the backdrop of his most iconic image. Voted the country’s favourite painting in 2005, ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ (1838) was Turner’s favourite too. It remained in his possession until his death; the 70-year-old artist swore in a letter of 1845 that ‘no consideration of

Sam Leith

Completely batty: Vampire Therapist reviewed

More from Arts

Grade: B+ Looter-shooters, match-three games, dragons and spaceships… Sometimes you despair of video games doing the same thing again and again – and then a lone developer gets a severe bump on the head and produces something completely batty.  Vampire Therapist is a comedic adventure-story therapy-simulation starring a vampire, except he’s also a cowboy, and

Acceptable for a hangover day: Fly Me to the Moon reviewed


Fly Me to the Moon is a romantic comedy starring Scarlett Johansson and Channing Tatum set during the 1960s space race but, unlike Apollo 11, this isn’t going anywhere we haven’t been before. The extent to which the film does take flight is largely thanks to Johansson’s charisma, even though I couldn’t help shake the

Complain all you like but Glastonbury has delivered the goods again


There’s yet to be a Glastonbury line-up that hasn’t provoked a chorus of naysaying. Refrains like ‘looks rubbish. I wouldn’t go’ and ‘not like it used to be’ are de rigueur. Dismissing the headliners as ‘crap this year’ rivals football as the nation’s favourite sport. Yet there’s something to be said for trusting the Glastonbury

Jenny McCartney

How we became addicted to vaping


For those of us with a poor grasp of time, who can still recall when a night at the pub could be sharply revisited by a Proustian wave of stale smoke arising from yesterday’s clothes, it can almost feel as if vaping crept up on us out of nowhere. One moment, it seemed, all the

Sly, sexy and smart: The Nature of Love reviewed


The Nature of Love is a French-Canadian film about an academic who considers herself happily married but then encounters a builder and sparks fly. I’ve made it sound like one of those Confessions… films, or an airport novel, but it isn’t. It’s sly, sexy and smart and, even though it’s billed as a romantic comedy

The art of Japanese woodblock printing

Arts feature

Van Gogh owned a copy of Utagawa Kunisada’s woodblock print of the ‘Yoshiwara Poet Omatsu’ (1861), which is currently on display at the Watts Gallery. It depicts the poetess who rose from humble origins in an elegant kimono at her dressing table and was part of Kunisada’s series of paintings titled Biographies of Famous Women,

Can Douglas Is Cancelled hold its nerve?


Like many sitcoms, W1A featured a middle-aged man convinced that he’s the only sane person left in the world. Usually, of course, this merely goes to show how delusional the bloke is – but the subversive twist here was that Ian Fletcher, the BBC’s head of values, seemed to be right. Playing Ian, Hugh Bonneville

Cowboys and clichés: Horizon – An American Saga reviewed


Horizon: An American Saga is a Western directed by Kevin Costner. It also stars Kevin Costner and is co-written by Kevin Costner and has been bankrolled by Kevin Costner – so if it’s Kevin Costner you’re after, happy days. This is Chapter One, and there are three more chapters to come, so even though it’s

The genius of Frederick Ashton


To defend my case that Frederick Ashton ought to be acknowledged as one of the major artistic geniuses of the last century, I would adduce three crucial pieces of evidence, garnered from the Royal Ballet’s ‘Ashton Celebrated’ festival at Covent Garden this month. Oberon and Titania’s love is an open contest between two unyielding wills:

Rod Liddle

‘Left me stunningly bored’: Brat, by Charli XCX, reviewed

The Listener

Grade: C I don’t doubt the ingenuity. The mastery of a technology which now exists as a substitute for melody, heart, soul, rhythm and meaning. I get the manifesto, too – a pop music that in a certain shallow sense reflects the modern predilection for meta-fiction: novels which mash up all the genres, so that

Lloyd Evans

Riveting and exhilarating: Miss Julie, at Park90, reviewed


Some Demon by Laura Waldren is a gem of a play that examines the techniques of manipulation and bullying practised by shrinks on anorexics. The setting is an NHS referral unit where Sam, an 18-year-old philosophy student, arrives with a minor eating disorder. Like every patient, Sam is told that her personality is immersed in

James Delingpole

Why you should never watch sci-fi series on streaming channels


Jason Dessen, the hero (and, as you’ll discover shortly, anti-hero) of Apple TV’s latest sci-fi caper Dark Matter, is a physics professor at a second-rate university in Chicago. You can tell he’s not that good at his job because he introduces the concept of Schrödinger’s cat (surely the only interesting bit in the entirety of