No plans this weekend? Let us fix that for you. Welcome to The Independent’s Arts Agenda, our brand new guide to the very best culture to catch up with across your Saturday and Sunday.
Carefully curated by our critics and editors, this round-up will bring you our hot tips across art, film, TV, theatre, dance, comedy, opera, books and music. Whether it’s a must-see newly opened show, or a gem you might have missed, we hope our recommendations mean you’re never stuck for something to see or do.
This week, if you haven’t watched The Last of Us yet, our TV Editor Ellie Harrison says you’re in store for a treat, while our Arts Editor Jessie Thompson is very curious about Melanie C’s Sadler’s Wells dance show. Elsewhere, our Film Editor Adam White says you can now watch Damien Chazelle’s Babylon at the cinema (if you dare), our Chief Art Critic Mark Hudson points out you’ve only got two days to see the National Gallery Lucian Freud show, and our Music Editor Roisin O’Connor reckons Lewis Capaldi’s Newcastle show is not to be missed.
Lucian Freud: New Perspectives
It’s your last chance to see a nicely put-together exhibition that tries to look beyond Freud’s celebrity image, but struggles to find much new to say about this ever-popular, yet controversial artist. If you like Freud you’ll be delighted by a fine selection of works from all periods. If you don’t, you’re unlikely to be won over. National Gallery, until 22 January
Ignore the misfiring attempts at reframing the great post-Impressionist as a more political figure than we’ve hitherto assumed. It’s the ethereal glow on Cezanne’s final landscapes and the obsessive precision of his endless studies of apples that make this one of the essential exhibitions of last year and this. Tate Modern, until 12 March
Spain and the Hispanic World
A fantastic jumble of “treasures” covering 4,000 years of Spanish and Hispanic culture from Neolithic pottery to Impressionist painting via Velasquez and Goya. On loan from New York’s quirky Hispanic Society Museum & Library, a certain quaintness in the presentation all adds to the show’s charm. Royal Academy, until 10 April
Mark Hudson, Chief Art Critic
Sonnets for Albert by Anthony Joseph
This week Trinidad-born poet Anthony Joseph became the latest inductee to the roll call of TS Eliot Prize winners, whose illustrious line-up includes Ted Hughes, Sharon Olds and Seamus Heaney. Sonnets for Albert, which uses an autobiographical lens to explore life with an absent father, was described as “luminous” by the judges who awarded him the £25,000 award. Dip in this weekend for a perfect poetry hit.
Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey
Schitt’s Creek writer and all-round funny person Monica Heisey has penned one of the year’s most anticipated debut novels, inspired by her own experience of getting divorced in her twenties. Not before she’d had some time to process it all, though; she told The Independent that, “ I didn’t want to be writing as therapy. I wanted going to therapy to be therapy.” It’s been praised by Dolly Alderton and Marian Keyes, and hits bookshops this weekend.
The Year of the Cat by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
This tender memoir from columnist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett is one of the rare pieces of writing borne out of the pandemic that won’t make you want to run a mile. There’s something genuinely insightful and profound in Cosslett wrestling with her mental health history and her creative ambitions, as she decides whether or not to have a child – all while caring for her new kitten Mackerel. It’s full of hard-won wisdom, intimately told.
Jessie Thompson, Arts Editor
What’s more exhausting: Damien Chazelle’s three-hour hedonistic epic, or just hearing about it? If you haven’t been put off by the endless headlines about its copious orgies, bodily fluids and snake fights, you can watch it at the cinema this weekend. Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva lead an oddball cast (Olivia Wilde! Spike Jonze! Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!) playing Hollywood stars and strivers caught up in the transition from silent film to talkies. Then doing lots and lots of blow. In cinemas now
I Love My Dad
This squirm-inducing comedy – a hit on the festival circuit – finally hits VOD on Monday (23 January), and stars cringe king Patton Oswalt as a father who catfishes his own son. He has his reasons, however tenuous: annoyed that his son has blocked him on social media, he “friends” him in the guise of a very beautiful young woman. If you’re scared that all kinds of deeply uncomfortable sexting hijinks could ensue… well, maybe don’t watch. Available on VOD from Monday
M3GAN who? True connoisseurs know that 2023’s buzziest horror movie is Skinamarink, about two young children whose parents have vanished along with the doors and windows of their home. It might require a bit of squinting – this is about kids roaming around in the terrifying dark, after all – but has already been dubbed one of the scariest films ever made. Frustratingly, it’s only playing in one London cinema right now – movie nerd mecca the Prince Charles – but is due to hit streaming platform Shudder later this year. Out in the Prince Charles cinema now
Adam White, Film Editor
New album: Gigi’s Recovery by The Murder Capital
If you were expecting more of the same blistering, high-octane rock music, Irish band The Murder Capital have a surprise in store. Gigi’s Recovery is a moody, introverted concept album, inspired in part by frontman James McGovern’s growing disillusionment with the party scene. Songs such as “Ethel” are questing, grunge-influenced and paranoid. The percussion shivers, guitars whine, vocals mutter. Throughout, there’s a sense the band are trying to claw their way out of something: labels, misconceptions, their own minds. Facing down their fears. It’s an ambitious and brave record.
Live music: Lewis Capaldi
If you happen to be in Newcastle this weekend, you could do worse than head along to Lewis Capaldi’s arena show. The Scottish singer-songwriter, who rose to fame around 2018 with his breakthrough single “Someone You Loved”, is in fine form. You would be too, if you’d spent the past few years collecting Brit Awards, platinum records and, oh yeah, a Grammy nomination. Now he’s back, armed with songs from the follow-up to his record-breaking debut, 2019’s Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. Come for the candid lyrics and his soaring, emotionally wrought vocals; stay for the excellent band outfits and bonus comedy. Utilita Arena, Newcastle, 21 January
Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan
The classical music traditions of Persia and Turkey come together once more thanks to Kayhan Kalhor and Erdal Erzincan’s extraordinary collaborations. Kalhor, a Grammy Award-winning master of the kamÄncheh, an Iranian bowed string instrument, joins Erzincan, renowned for his playing of the baÄlama, a long-necked lute. At these incredible shows, they offer a set of vibrant and sensual instrumental works into which the audience falls, spellbound. Barbican, London, 21 Jan
Roisin O’Connor, Music Editor
How did we get here?
Melanie C’s frank memoir Who I Am, released last year, revealed her to be the Spice Girl most happy to be out of her comfort zone. Post-Geri, she launched a punky solo career that saw her pelted with bottles at V Festival. Now, the year before she turns 50, she’s collaborating with respected choreographer Julie Cunningham, whose work is characterised by great focus and control. The one-hour performance promises to bring audiences on an “intimate journey through space and time”. Sadler’s Wells, until 29 January
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Four of our finest thespians, shouting in each other’s faces? It must be time for another Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? revival. Elizabeth McGovern and Dougray Scott star as warring spouses Martha and George; Gina Bramhill and Charles Aitken are Honey and Nick, the young married couple who pop round for drinks. Early reviews of the Theatre Royal Bath production, staged in its intimate Ustinov Studios, are glowing. Read our verdict in Sunday’s Week on Stage column. Theatre Royal Bath, until 11 February
Alex Edelman: Just For Us
American stand-up Alex Edelman, who was named Edinburgh Fringe’s Best Newcomer in 2014 for his show Millennial, kicks off a month-long residency at the Menier Chocolate Factory this month. In his show Just for Us, which also won him an Edinburgh Comedy nod in 2018 and was described as “uproarious” by the New York, the Jewish comedian explains what happened when he infiltrated a meeting of white supremacists. Menier Chocolate Factory, until 26 February
Jessie Thompson, Arts Editor
The Last of Us
Gamers, rejoice! And fans of brilliant prestige television – you can rejoice too! Finally, at long last, we have a video game adaptation that seems to have evaded the genre’s curse. The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as survivors in a post-apocalyptic America, has achieved something unprecedented: it has successfully turned its source material into a properly moreish, gripping drama. New episodes of the show are dropping weekly; the first premiered to rave reviews last week. The second is landing on Monday and it can’t arrive a moment too soon. Sky Atlantic and NOW, every Monday
That ’90s Show
Worth a look is this revival of the classic sitcom That ’70s Show, just released on Netflix. It’s a total nostalgia trip, with Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis among the cast returning to their roles two decades on. Our TV critic Nick Hilton, a fan of the original, has mixed feelings about the reboot but reckons “the lure of generations past might just drag you in”. Netflix, out now
Everyone Else Burns
Former Inbetweener Simon Bird stars in this new Channel 4 sitcom, arriving on Monday, as the patriarch of a family in an ultra-religious sect who believes the world is going to end. We can expect absurdity and lots of heart. Bird insisted it’s not simply a series about religion in an interview with The Independent. “Religion in the show, I think, is a metaphor for lots of other things,” he said, “whether that’s sort of quote-unquote ‘family values’, or small-c conservatism.” Channel 4, 10pm, Monday 23 January
Ellie Harrison, TV Editor