Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Creed III to The Woman in Black
There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful this week. It’s March, spring is here, and the end of awards season is finally in sight.
But before the culture desk gets wrapped up in Oscar-mania, there are plenty of exciting new releases from across the arts to keep us entertained. Our team of critics and editors have picked a selction of the best cultural activities for this weekend, as part of our weekly Arts Agenda.
Chief art critic Mark Hudson raves about the “fast rising young British painter of recent times”, and celebrates the work of a major British ceramicist. Arts editor Jessie Thompson weighs in on the return of a Booker-winning author after a decade, and reflects on a West End stalwart’s final curtain. Features editor Adam White, meanwhile, advocates for the boxing threequel Creed III, and TV editor Ellie Harrison champions an eye-opening documentary about George Michael. In the world of music, Roisin O’Connor sings the praises of the latest album by mercurial rapper Slowthai.
There are just two weeks left to see this first major exhibition for the fastest rising young British painter of recent times. The 30-year-old London-born artist’s large, apparently abstract canvases fetch eye-watering prices, but evoke otherworldly moods, with suggestions of hallucinatory forests in shimmering reds, pinks and purples. Hepworth Wakefield, until 19 March
Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2023
The cutting-edge photography prize maintains its reputation for startling exhibitions. Here, two well-established heavy-hitters – radical African-American video-maker Arthur Jafa and extraordinary self-portraitist Samuel Fosso from the Central African Republic – come up against younger women artists: Norwegian photo-collagist Frida Orupabo and Belgium’s Bieke Depoorter, who examines the relationship between sitter and snapper. Photographers Gallery, until 11 June
Lucy Rie: The Adventure of Pottery
A major show with over 100 works from one of the most popular British ceramicists of the past half century. The timeless elegance of Rie’s clay vessels belies her often dramatic interaction with current events – from fleeing the Nazis to a late-career collaboration with Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake. Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge, until 25 June
Mark Hudson, Chief Art Critic
Fiction: Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton
This is the first novel from New Zealand author Eleanor Catton since her Booker Prize win for the epic historical saga The Luminaries a decade ago. With echoes of Macbeth, it follows a group of do-gooder “guerrilla gardeners” who plant crops on spare patches of land, before a billionaire investor arrives on the scene offering to help with the cause. Read our review in Sunday’s monthly books column from chief books critic Martin Chilton.
Non-fiction: Don’t Think, Dear by Alice Robb
Ballet demands the rigid policing of female bodies and the continued staging of very old-fashioned stories. This fascinating memoir from Alice Robb, who once trained to be a ballerina herself, explores whether an artform apparently founded on controlling women can ever be truly feminist.
Jessie Thompson, Arts Editor
Nominated for the Best International Feature award at this month’s Oscars, Lukas Dhont’s earnest and heartbreaking coming-of-age tale revolves around the ruptured friendship between two 13-year-old boys. Léo (Eden Dambrine) and Rémi (Gustav De Waele) are inseparable, until their classmates begin to gossip about their perceived intimacy. Most affected is Léo, who decides to distance himself from his best friend. Close goes to brutal places, but Dhont’s understanding of complex interpersonal dynamics – particularly among the young – is striking. In cinemas now
The Creed series has been ticking along nicely since 2015, a Rocky spin-off saga that reliably delivers bloody knuckles, soulful brutes and gargantuan pectorals. Michael B Jordan returns in the starring role and also directs, while Jonathan Majors follows up his “far too good for this” role in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania with something a little chewier. Here, he plays Creed’s childhood friend, who’s just been released from jail and pledges to face him in the ring. In cinemas now
Empire of Light
Sam Mendes’s Empire of Light carries the whiff of dashed Oscar buzz, having slinked ignominiously into cinemas in January and right back out again after poor reviews and paltry box office figures. Still, it’s worth your attention – an interesting if not always successful drama about two lonely people (Olivia Colman and Micheal Ward) finding one another among the reels of a Margate cinema. Streaming on Disney Plus now
Adam White, Features Editor
Slowthai – Ugly
Mercury Prize-shortlisted rapper Slowthai returns this week with his third album, Ugly. Where its predecessor Tyron left the emotional heavy-lifting to his collaborators, this is a bristling deep-dive into Slowthai’s psyche, from the therapy-themed “F*** It Puppet” to the recklessness of “Sooner”. You can hear about the album in Slowthai’s own words this weekend, in the Saturday Interview by Will Pritchard. Out Friday 3 March
Ed Banger anniversary celebrations at Printworks
The home of French house and electronic music celebrates its 20th anniversary this year at Printworks, London, with a coming together of some of its biggest names. Included on the bill is a DJ set from Grammy-winning duo Justice and performances from SebastiAn, Uffie, Boston Bun and more. The last act goes on at 4am, so it’ll be a dance-until-you-drop kind of party. Friday 3 March
SZA at Madison Square Garden in NYC
Still riding high in the US charts with her second studio album SOS, SZA is bringing her eclectic, introspective style to Madison Square Garden in New York. Five years since she broke through with her Grammy-nominated debut Cntrl, she has asserted herself as a mainstream force while remaining defiantly undefinable. She is consumed by thoughts of revenge on the salty “Kill Bill” (“I might kill my ex,” she croons over languorous beats), yet shows breathtaking vulnerability on the acoustic “Special”. Maybe she’s sending out distress signals, but fans at her live shows will feel as though they’re the ones being saved. Saturday 4 March
Roisin O’Connor, Music Editor
The Woman in Black
In the late Eighties, a stage adaptation of Susan Hill’s spooky novel got its first staging. Reviews were good enough to carry it to the West End (although this esteemed publication had one complaint: why was there no live dog?). Thirty-three years on, and many screaming rite-of-passage school trips later, and the production is set to close; its final spine-chilling performance will be on Saturday 4 March. Fortune Theatre
Sheridan Smith can do Chekhov, Rattigan and Elle Woods. But her return to the West End is the chance to see one of the performers of her generation in a role that could have been written for her. In this production of Willy Russell’s warm, witty 1986 one-woman play, she stars as a Liverpudlian housewife who feels her life is passing her by, until she’s offered a surprise trip to Greece. The run has been extended due to demand, and Smith is giving the performance of the year so far. Duke of York’s Theatre, until 3 June
Song From Far Away
Will Young earned an Olivier nomination for his 2013 performance as the Emcee in Cabaret. For his decidedly thespian new role, he stars in Simon Stephens’ monologue about a man grieving the loss of his brother. Young has been winning strong reviews for his performance, and the real-life parallels are poignant; in 2020, his own brother Rupert took his own life. HOME Manchester, until 11 March
Jessie Thompson, Arts Editor
A Whole Lifetime
Some people say that, in a near-death experience, our whole lives flash before our eyes. Jamie Demetriou’s new one-off sketch-show is a bit like that… if the flash was 60 minutes long. A Whole Lifetime charts a comic journey from the cosiness of the womb to a stint on a Love Island-esque series, to the loneliness of old age and the final departure of the soul from the shrivelled body. It’s a terrific, surreal adventure that fans of Demetriou’s Channel 4 hit Stath Lets Flats are sure to relish. Out now on Netflix
Daisy Jones & The Six
Taylor Jenkins Reid’s much-loved 2019 novel, about a Fleetwood Mac-alike rock band, is brought to life in this new drama starring Riley Keough and Sam Claflin. All the music, formerly imagined in readers’ minds, has been written specially for the TV series – a move that Katie Rosseinsky delved into in this brilliant feature. We’ll have to wait and see if the fictional tunes turn into real-life earworms. Out now on Prime Video
George Michael: Outed
For the first time, George Michael’s inner circle discuss the days after the Wham! star was arrested for lewd conduct in a Los Angeles public toilet. They tell the story about how the pop icon refused to be ashamed under mounting pressure to reveal his sexuality, in one of the biggest scandals of the Nineties. It’s yet another case that shows how badly celebrities were treated by the media, in that decade and, for that reason alone, is a crucial TV event. Monday at 9pm on Channel 4
Ellie Harrison, TV Editor