"I didn't want people to read in the same way they might eat five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, but because I wanted them to know the mind-expanding privilege of walking a mile in someone else's shoes." Cathy Rentzenbrink
Theatre
Survivor rage

Survivor rage

David Hare succumbed to Covid-19 last March, as the UK government continued to dither over following the rest of Europe into lockdown. He contracted it in the confines of a cramped Soho editing room, and was soon experiencing a shortage of breath followed by complex symptoms he describes as “kicking around like I’ve swallowed a...
The Mourners' Kaddish

The Mourners’ Kaddish

Sometimes it is very hard to put words to experiences. In Adorno’s much used (and misused) own words, “there can be no poetry after Auschwitz”; the human soul and mind can conceive of no recreation of experience, no seamless relating to, or of, life through words alone, once the humanity of meaning has been so...
“Angels you will see only when you’re dead. Possibly.”

“Angels you will see only when you’re dead. Possibly.”

Think back to when you were very young, still capable of looking at the world with wide, wondrous eyes. When books had a breathtaking pulse and three-dimensionality about them, and every page seemed like an invitation to a mystic dance – a summons to enter a world of grand enchantment, of dark, mysterious corners and...
A complex complicity

A complex complicity

“I’ve forgotten such a lot. Most of it, really. Certain things stick of course, although I’ve no idea why. I don’t understand how it works. I read something and then I go across the room to check what’s for dinner and completely forget what I’ve just read. I think, wait a minute, I’ve only just...
Visions and monsters

Visions and monsters

The Monstrous Child, which has just completed a very successful run at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Theatre, is one of the first and most audacious examples of a new genre: highly evocative classical opera especially written for teenage audiences. Adapted from the YA novel of the same name by Francesca Simon with music by...
The starving father-man

The starving father-man

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which sits so large and many-stepped on Fifth Avenue in New York, there is a section on the first floor referred to as the sculpture garden, and I must have walked past this particular sculpture1 many times with my husband, and with the children as they got older, me...
The Talleyrand of East Africa

The Talleyrand of East Africa

“’Ullo, I am ze Breetish Consul.” My startled reaction revealed my prejudice. I didn’t cover it well. “You can’t be. You’re French!” “Eet is a long stohry. Shall we ’ave a drink?” We sat down. One by one the other members of the company came to join us, dressed in their evening casual best, and...
Peter Shaffer: An immortal life

Peter Shaffer: An immortal life

Our lives, our intellectual and emotional worlds, our humanity and imagination, owe a great, indelible debt to Peter Shaffer, for revealing to us the wonder and the dark mystery of our existence, for enhancing so starkly and so gently our knowledge of ourselves, of our history and society, its ethics, aspirations, the sheer mechanics and...
An unfailing life

An unfailing life

On 29 April 1937 Virginia Woolf read one of her texts on the radio, the only recording of her voice known to have survived from a total of three BBC radio broadcasts. This highly introspective essay on the craftsmanship of writing was entitled ‘Words Fail Me’; four years later, almost to the day, Woolf would...
Forever Neverland

Forever Neverland

Sally Cookson’s Peter Pan at the National Theatre is an exuberant steampunk pyjama party, exploring grown-up themes of abandonment, jeopardy, loneliness and despair. Cookson thrusts Wendy Darling (Madeleine Worral) centre-stage, as her story arcs from wonder to understanding and impending adulthood, while Paul Hilton’s petulant Peter, in his outgrown green suit and arrested adolescence, remains...