Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet. (© Jane Hobson)
National Theatre, 28th August to 26th October
Christopher Marlowe’s last play goaded Shakespeare to respond with the more frequently performed Richard II. But Marlowe’s magnificent chronicle of an acclaimed and then imprisoned monarch, and his favoured catamite, Piers Gaveston, can still seem a strikingly modern and controversial play.
Joe Hill-Gibbins’s production is part of the Travelex £12 ticket scheme in the Olivier auditorium, and is unlikely to stint on homoerotic tension, brutality among the barons and the red hot poker murder scene (“I fear me that this cry will raise the town”).
Edward made Ian McKellen an overnight star 43 years ago and the same could happen to young John Heffernan, who has already emerged as a distinctive classicist; his Gaveston is another brilliant actor, Kyle Soller, and Vanessa Kirby plays marital gooseberry as Queen Isabella.
Hill-Gibbins tore up the rule book in his sex-and-jelly sensational production of Middleton and Rowley’s The Changeling at the Young Vic, and it’s high time that Marlowe’s play is restored, if not as a handbook of morality in the monarchy, then as a pulsating parable of corruption in the country.
Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet Triple Bill
Sadler’s Wells, 27th and 28th September
When it comes to patronage, some dance companies are more fortunate than others. New York’s thrilling contemporary ballet company, Cedar Lake, can afford to be adventurous, having mined a rich seam of private investment through Walmart heiress Nancy Laurie, who founded the company in 2003. But they take nothing for granted. The company is composed of 16 uniformly brilliant dancers, none of whom are risk averse. Whether they are required to roll around on the floor, interact with back projections or perform dizzying turns and gestures with mercurial speed, they are equal to the demands placed upon them.
The triple bill celebrating Cedar Lake’s 10th anniversary at Sadler’s Wells provides ample evidence of their continuing quest for challenging work. Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite, whose work is often closer to kinetic installation than pure dance, contributes Ten Duets on a Theme of Rescue, which does precisely what it says on the tin. The mischievous geometry of Jiri Kylián’s Indigo Rose stretches the dancers’ vocabulary as only the Czech choreographer can. The bill is completed by Norwegian Jo Strømgren, who lightens the mood and breaks the intensity with his piece Necessity, Again that employs a selection of songs by Charles Aznavour and snatches of a recorded interview with Jacques Derrida. Sharpen your wits and go.
Maria Stuarda/Anna Bolena/Roberto Devereux
Welsh National Opera, from 7th September
Sixteenth-century history has all the political intrigue and 19th-century music all the romance, so when the two come together in Donizetti’s “Three Queens” the result is pretty potent. This autumn Welsh National Opera will be making history of their own—staging the triptych of Maria Stuarda, Anna Bolena and Roberto Devereux together for the first time in Britain.
Too often dismissed as empty display, Italy’s bel canto style is opera at its technical pinnacle. But while most associated today with the comedies of Rossini, where its florid excesses serve the lightest of farces, this music also has a darker side. In Maria Stuarda psychology meets virtuosity in one of the repertoire’s most demanding and complex roles, while Roberto Devereux paints an unexpectedly moving portrait of an ageing monarch caught between her public and private selves. The season includes lectures and interviews helping to unpack the genius of bel canto’s self-appointed historian, Donizetti.
Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia
Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich, from 14th September
In 2000, a walker on Happisburg beach, Norfolk, picked up a flint handaxe, worked around 700,000 years ago. In 1930, on the same beach, Henry Moore found an ironstone pebble, from which he carved a reclining figure. This autumn, these two objects will open a landmark celebration of the art of East Anglia, featuring paintings by Claude Lorrain, John Sell Cotman and Maggi Hambling, Roman bronzes and fine English medieval silver.
This exhibition honours an engagement with art that dates back to the earliest human settlers in Britain. Whether the artworks were inspired by East Anglia, made by East Anglian artists or collected by such East Anglian grandees as Thomas Coke or Robert Walpole, the exhibition destroys the region’s reputation as a backwater. Its watercolour skies and rugged beaches have inspired successive generations of artists, both local and international —including Brazilian artist Ana Maria Pacheco, whose vast sculpture, The Longest Journey (1994), exhibited here, incorporates a fishing boat from the Norfolk Broads.
On release from 27th September
How to convey on film the ideas of political philosopher Hannah Arendt? This drama concentrates on the early 1960s when Arendt—a Jew who fled Germany in 1933—was commissioned by the New Yorker to cover the trial in Jerusalem of Adolf Eichmann. Attempting to reconcile what she perceived as the shocking mediocrity of the man with his monstrous deeds, she identified the “banality of evil.” Her analytical appraisal of the trial provoked a vitriolic row among intellectuals, many of them Jewish, who accused her of lacking sympathy.
Hannah Arendt can’t altogether avoid the snares of the biopic—expository dialogue about her theories or early relationship with Heidegger, for example—but Barbara Sukowa’s impassioned portrayal drives home both predicament and argument. She and director/writer Margarethe von Trotta worked decades ago with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on films where the personal and political entwined. Here, as New York intellectuals in smoky apartments debate freedom, action, judgment and humanity, a biopic seems strangely appropriate.