The Reaction Culture Digest

BY James Hardie & Will Hutton   /  26 January 2018

Charles I: King and Collector

Before meeting his sticky end, Charles I amassed a collection of works by the finest artists of both his own age and the Renaissance.  This exhibition reunites many masterpieces by Van Dyck, Rubens, Titian, Holbein, and Dürer, which were sold off around Europe after Charles’ execution in 1649, and now reside permanently in continental galleries including the Louvre and Prado.

Royal Academy, London, 27 January – 15 April 

Follow it up with Charles II, Art and Power at The Queen’s Gallery, London, and enjoy ‘a right royal day out’ with this joint ticket offer 

The Divide

This is the second outing of Alan Ayckbourn ‘narrative for voices’, which was premiered at the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival as a 6-hour two-parter with a focussing performance from Erin Doherty in the role of Soween. Now cut down to a single three-hour production, it follows the lives of two children growing up within a tightly-controlled, segregated dystopian society, in which contact between men and women is fatal, and the desire to rebel threatens cataclysmic consequences.

The Old Vic, London, 1 – 10 February 

Ingmar Bergman: A Definitive Film Season

Part 2 of this retrospective of Bergman’s ouvre takes its first theme as ‘The Human Condition’, a selection of films that focus on Bergman’s sustained interest in the way humans cope with life’s complexities: misfortune, injustice, cruelty, and war. Expect to see The Seventh Seal in this strand of the project, as well as Bergman’s other masterpiece Cries and Whispers in the season’s ‘Women in Love’ series running simultaneously this month.

BFI Southbank, London, from 1 February – March 


Following a five-star run at the 2017 Edinburgh International Festival, the opera that gave Mark-Anthony Turnage his breakthrough in 1988 comes to Glasgow in this production by Scottish Opera.  Based on Steven Berkoff’s gritty re-telling of the Oedipus myth—a tale transposed all too easily into the present—Turnage moves things along with an unnerving rhythm of familiarity, incorporating everything from jazz riffs to football chants.

Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 2 – 3 February 

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread will be the much-coveted final bow for Daniel Day-Lewis. Director Paul Thomas Anderson has carved a singular career making intensely realised, character-driven American dramas. Now he turns his attention to London in the 1950s. Each decade Thomas-Anderson’s films have ranked among the very best (Magnolia in the 1990s; There Will Be Blood 2000s; The Master 2010s). In Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis plays English fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (a name of Day-Lewis’s own devising), whose tightly coiled life unravels in a relationship he develops with a German waitress played by Vicky Krieps. Regardless of its performance at the Oscars (it has 6 nominations including Best Picture), this is essential viewing.

Cinemas nationwide, from 2 February 

Mahan Esfahani

The Iranian-American harpsichordist continues his survey of the complete works for harpsichord by J.S. Bach with the English Suites No. 3 and 4, and the Toccata in D major.  For this next instalment, he’ll be inaugurating a new harpsichord made with carbon fibre, giving him even more sound to play with. Esfahani’s spontaneous preambles are as much of a reward as his astoundingly physical playing of an instrument that has typically struggled to escape its ivory tower.

Wigmore Hall, London, 9 February

An evening with the winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award

The shortlist for the Costa Book of the Year is made up of the winners of its five book categories. The great rival to the Booker Prize, previous winners of the award have included Sebastian Barry (Days Without End) and Hilary Mantel (Bring Up The Bodies). This year the shortlist is made up of:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (First Novel)

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (Novel)

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott (Biography)

Inside the Wave by Helen Dunmore (Poetry)

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (Children’s Book)

The winner will be announced on 30th January.

The Auditorium at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London, 14 February 

The Comedy Project

Soho Theatre’s Comedy Project offers the opportunity to see established comics perform alongside the most exciting up-and-coming talent. Taking place weekly on Mondays, two pieces are presented each night covering the whole comedic gamut, from ‘off-book’ sitcom pilots to ‘on-book’ radio plays, stand-up shows to filmed sketches.

Soho Theatre, London, 19 February – 12 March 

Keble Early Music Festival

The fifth incarnation of this unique, student-focused festival presents its most adventurous programme yet, seamlessly uniting divine music-making with meditative elements of the liturgy, all in the heady surroundings of William Butterfield’s chapel.  Don’t miss virtuoso Gawain Glenton performing music of Hansa Europe, George Ross performing the sempiternal Bach Cello Suites, or Mozart’s powerfully moving Requiem, with baritone Christopher Purves.

Keble College, Oxford, 20 – 24 February 

Julian Barnes in Conversation with Professor Hermione Lee

Barnes, one of our foremost fiction writers and winner of the 2011 Booker Prize, will be in conversation with the academic, author and biographer Hermione Lee to discuss his new novel The Only Story, a story of unconventional love set fifty years ago. To give you an idea of what to expect from his new novel, listen to Penguin’s podcast of Barnes reading excerpts from The Only Story.

The Royal Institution, London, 21 February