After an eventful last weekend – which saw Everything Everywhere All at Once sweep the 2023 Oscars – the world finally has time to take a breather.
But the new releases haven’t stopped coming, whether that’s films, TV series, books, albums, art exhibitions or stage plays. To help parse the influx of options from across the arts, The Independent’s culture desk has assembled another edition of our weekly Arts Agenda.
Arts editor Jessie Thompson walks us through two of the best books to dive into this weekend, and raves about the new production of Guys and Dolls. Music editor Roisin O’Connor praises a career-best release from Welsh rock band Trampolene. Chief arts critic Mark Hudson recommends three exhibitions from three different UK cities, and features editor Adam White has nothing but good things to say about Pearl, the acclaimed prequel to last year’s pulpy slasher X. Ellie Harrison, meanwhile, steers us towards the third season of Ted Lasso, and David Schwimmer’s impending appearance on The Great Celebrity Bake Off.
Souls Grown Deep Like the Rivers: Black Artists from the American South
The harsh history of the Black American South is exuberantly upended in the works of untrained artists working with found materials – clay, driftwood, roots, soil – from the mid-20th century to now. The starkly abstract and highly sophisticated patterns of Alabama’s Gee’s Bend quilters stand out. Royal Academy, until 18 June
Empowering Art: Indigenous Creativity and Activism from North America’s Northwest Coast
Ravens, bears, beavers and other totemic animals interweave with magical vitality in exquisite carvings from the forests and inland seas of western Canada and Alaska. Works by younger artists show ancestral traditions updated with a conceptual twist as indigenous peoples take on governments and logging companies in long-running battles over land and resources. Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, until 30 July
Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: Paths to Abstraction
The only woman among the celebrated St Ives painters is best known for faux-naïf views of Cornish harbours. But Barns-Graham’s biggest show in 20 years sees her taking on her male rivals with primal views of Swiss glaciers and mathematics-based “systems” abstraction, which attracted her precisely because it was once considered too difficult for women. Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, until 20 May
Mark Hudson, chief art critic
I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel
The buzz around Sheena Patel’s debut, now out in paperback, ramped up a notch last week when it was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It follows one woman’s obsession with her married boyfriend, and one of the many other women he is sleeping with. Fiction about unequal relationships has almost become a cliche since #MeToo and “Cat Person”, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a weirder, more compelling depiction of one this year.
Dog Hearted: Essays on Our Fierce and Familiar Companions
Many of us bow down to our four-legged friends – and what better way to do so than make doggos the subject of a book of erudite literary essays? This collection from the publishing arm of Daunt Books is edited by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Jessica J Lee, and features writing from Cal Flyn, Evie Wyld and Nell Stevens, among several others. Perfect to press into the hands of the devoted dog owners in your life.
Jessie Thompson, arts editor
It’s almost irrelevant that Ti West’s Pearl is a prequel to his 2022 horror hit X – it’s both formally and narratively different, more a Technicolor fever dream than a scuzzy gore epic. Mia Goth, whose unsettling charisma calls to mind a young Shelley Duvall, is the Pearl of the title, a lonely young woman working on her family’s farm in 1918. Stardom beckons for her, she fruitlessly insists, and she’ll do anything to get it. Even if that means taking an axe to whoever might get in her way. In cinemas now
When will we stop talking about a “romcom renaissance” and just admit that romantic comedies are being pumped out with increasing regularity again? Rye Lane at least feels new in many other respects, namely that this is a British romcom with more Black faces in it than in the entirety of the Richard Curtis oeuvre. Vivian Oparah and David Jonsson play newly single twentysomethings in Peckham, who team up to settle old romantic scores. This is funny, inventive and timely filmmaking, meaning something actually set in a recognisable contemporary Britain. You wish we did more of that. In cinemas now
Adam White, features editor
Album: Unknown Mortal Orchestra – V
The New Zealand-formed psych-rock band are releasing their fifth album, V, a poignant exploration of mortality and family ties. Frontman Ruben Nielson recorded the project in Palm Springs, California, with his brother, father, and longtime bandmate. “We didn’t come out of that period the same,” he tells The Independent’s Megan Graye. “We thought, if we don’t come out of this as stronger and less selfish people, then all of this is just another big tragedy for our family.” Read the full interview this Sunday. V is released on Friday 18 March.
Album: Trampolene – Rules of Love & War
Welsh rock band Trampolene release a career-best in the form of their fourth album, Rules of Love & War, a collection of frontman Jack Jones’s sharp observations on poverty, nationalism, romance and greed. Produced by Mike Moore (Liam Gallagher, Baxter Dury), Richard Jackson (Super Furry Animals) and Jason Stafford, the record has a polished feel compared to the band’s past works but never loses urgency or grit they’ve become known for. Jones is at his best on songs such as the ominous “Thinking Again” – its dark rumbling bass contrasting with his keening timbre – and the yearning “Together”. His songwriting is as redolent of poet Ted Hughes’s stark surrealism as the musicianship is to the pummelling, anthemic rock of Oasis. A fantastic album you’ll find yourself dwelling on, long after the final note. Out Friday 18 March
Roisin O’Connor, music editor
Guys and Dolls
It would not be rocking the boat to say that Nicholas Hytner’s immersive production of Guys and Dolls is very, very good. The production opened this week to perhaps the best reviews yet at this young theatre, which only opened its doors in late 2017. Singled out for praise is the always barnstorming Marisha Wallace who, fresh from nabbing an Olivier nomination for her performance in Oklahoma!, is bringing the house down as Miss Adelaide. Bridge Theatre, London, until 2 September
Theo Chester’s debut play is set in a world where the rich live a life of plenty within city walls, while those outside are condemned to starve. It follows Jacob, who works for the upper echelons and brutally punishes those who are driven to steal. Directed by Tommo Fowler at one of London’s leading new writing theatres, this story about inequality could hardly feel more timely. Theatre503, London, until 1 April
Jessie Thompson, arts editor
Apple’s relentlessly upbeat football sitcom might have attracted the ire of Aubrey Plaza’s ice queen in season two of The White Lotus, but it’s now back for a third and (probably) final season. Our critic Amanda Whiting reckons it’s still an absolute worldie. “What started off as a fish-out-of-water sitcom,” she wrote, “has slyly evolved into something more compelling.” Out now on AppleTV+
This intimate documentary, five years in the making, tells the story of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian charity worker arrested at a Tehran airport in 2016 and accused of spying. It looks at how her husband Richard juggled a media and political campaign to free his wife while raising their daughter Gabriella alone, and explores the toxic diplomatic relationship between Britain and Iran. Out now on All4
The Great Celebrity Bake Off for Stand Up to Cancer
Celeb specials of favourite reality shows can often be a bit naff, but Bake Off’s spin-off usually serves up some true delights. The most talked-about star appearance in its history was that of comedian James Acaster, whose near-breakdown in the tent is now part of the show’s folklore. Let’s see if David Schwimmer, one of the names in this new special, fares any better. On Channel 4 on Sunday at 7.45pm
Ellie Harrison, TV editor