I’ve recently seen the groundbreaking monologue play Grounded – fresh from Edinburgh and on an extended run at the marvellous, feisty little Gate Theatre.
Anyone who thought mothers, drone attacks, sex, casinos and mental breakdown didn’t go hand in hand needs to spend an hour and a half in the company of this super-talented performer. A must-see – and it ends when September does.
Just finished the remarkable Testament of Mary by prose-meister Colm Toibin. Subtly disturbing and totally original take on the story we’re most familiar with. And short, darlings. Short.
The Great Beauty, directed by Paulo Sorrentino
A beautiful, haunting film, which is still on general release, but not for much longer I suspect. It deserves to be seen in cinemas, because it is an exceptionally cinematic movie. It’s light on plot, centering on an ageing socialite writer who uses his disillusion with the present to explore the choices and passions of his youth. His current social circle are closely observed as a commentary on his own sense of general fatigue. If this sounds vaguely maudlin, it must be said that the film is also extremely funny, and beautifully shot: The Great Beauty of the title is almost certainly supposed to be Rome, which is adored through the cinematography. But of course, Rome’s fading beauty is a counterpoint to the central character’s, and the layers and echoes in the film feed off each other in a subtle, intelligent fashion that bewitches and charms throughout.
On a visit home to Malaysia in September I rediscovered the pleasures of dipping into The Vintage Book of Indian Writing 1947-1997, which Salman Rushdie edited. Some rare gems of the short story form mixed in with excellent examples of essay writing by masters of the genre.
I started reading Cornucopia when I lived in North Cyprus in the 90s. It’s a marvellous publication on the history, art, antiques, culture and food of the Balkans & Eastern Mediterranean, beautifully produced. Once every 10 years it comes out with THE last word on visiting Istanbul. I love the city and will be getting my copy.
If you love the Art Deco designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh as much as I do then try the Malay Urut Massage at The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur. The spa there is inspired by Mackintosh’s Willow Tea Rooms. Or visit the Tea Rooms themselves in Glasgow.
Inside Out: Richard Rogers at the Royal Academy – the inspirational story of a man who wanted to change the world through architecture and quite possibly did. I’ve just read (and re-read!) The Old Man and The Sea – mind-blowingly good. (I suspect Hemapingway would take Faulkner’s insult as a compliment!)
Searching for Sugar Man” won the Academy Awards for Best Documentary Feature this year. The documentary details the efforts of two South African fans in the late 1990’s to track down mysterious US musician Sixto Rodrigues. While Rodrigues was never a big star in the US, he was bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones in South Africa. This is a fascinating documentary capturing a specific time from the bubbling turbulence during apartheid to grim Detroit with terrific, soulful tunes.
And another hit musical documentary heading across the pond this autumn is Twenty Feet from Stardom.” The film moves the spotlight to the unsung heroes behind the musical stars of our times. We all know their voices, just not their names. Mick Jagger, Bruce Springstein, Bette Midler all make an appearance, as of course do, the often overlooked back-up singers themselves.
The Way, Way Back” is a poignant, funny and subtle coming-of-age film, with some great acting from Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell and Allison Jenney.
And I can’t wait to see the apparently bittersweet, romantic comedy Enough Said” starring the late James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The trailers and reviews are superb, touching on divorce, empty nest syndrome, mid-life dating and unwittingly falling for your new friend’s despised ex.