How I learned not to worry about being cool and fell in love with Renoir again

Published in Elephant August 17, 2021

I was small enough to be picked up to see the painting, held comfortably in my father’s arms. It was a good print, in a good frame, hanging on the wall in my grandmother’s dining room. It is the first artwork I can remember really being aware of, and I loved it.

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Ian McKellen is the world’s oldest Hamlet. But did Shakespeare ever want his stars to act their age?

Published in The i July 20, 2021

It is 50 years since Ian McKellen last played Hamlet – a stretch of time itself greater than the age of most actors who play Shakespeare’s “sweet prince”. At 82, Sir Ian makes history as the oldest actor to have a stab at the part, in an age-blind production by Sean Mathias at the Theatre Royal Windsor.

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Why Alice is the ultimate icon of children’s books

Published in BBC Culture May 12, 2021

For books that are all about surprising transformations, it should perhaps be no real surprise that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass are among the most frequently adapted and reinterpreted stories ever written.

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A cultural history of the nude selfie

Published in BBC Culture March 19, 2021 

“Love, lust, pleasure, desire, beauty, anatomical study, self-expression, egotism… The impulses behind sending nudes are many. Creating nudes and sharing them seems to be part of human nature.” So begins Karla Linn Merrifield, in the first contribution to a new anthology entitled Sending Nudes. A collection of poems, stories and memoir on the subject, it takes a long hard look at the contemporary – and seemingly timeless – habit of sharing images of the naked human form.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sprinkled With High-Tech Fairy Dust

Published in The New York Times March 12, 2021

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may be one of Shakespeare’s most performed plays — but its latest version from the Royal Shakespeare Company will be unlike any seen before. Titled “Dream,” the 50-minute streamed production fuses live performance with motion-capture technology, 3-D graphics, and interactive gaming techniques that let the audience remotely guide Puck through a virtual forest.

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