In the 1930s, as he fled Nazi Germany, Einstein passed through the Belgian port of Ostend, en route to the United States, and met the painter James Ensor. He asked him what he painted, to which Ensor replied “nothing”.
Anyone seeking to be reminded of how we used to work not so very long ago should take the 10-minute tram journey from Birmingham’s newly revamped Grand Central Station to the city’s Jewellery Quarter, where every other shop is a jeweller and the close-knit atmosphere of a neighbourhood once closed to the wider city lingers on.
Of all Shakespeare’s plays, the problematic Taming of the Shrew lends itself to tongue-in-cheek adaptations. Already a play-within-a-play in the original version, framing Shakespeare’s account of the shrewish Kate and her borderline-abusive Petruchio with a backstage broken romance ratchets up a notch the already absurdly charged sexual tension.
Established in 2007, the Aimia AGO photography prize, Canada’s optimum award for contemporary photography, was the first major art accolade to hand the general public the responsibility of choosing the winner – although an expert panel has already drawn up the list of contenders.
With otherworldly northern lights, volcanoes and hot springs, Iceland is famously a nation of natural wonders. It also has an extraordinary human wonder in its tradition of sagas, written in Icelandic, when the scholarly world was dominated by Latin, and establishing a tiny nation, in terms of population, as great when measured by its literary contribution.
After the trauma of Kristallnacht in November 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was persuaded to agree that thousands of Jewish children come to Britain through a rescue effort that became known as the Kindertransport.
It’s an indictment of society when the well-born, well-bred and very carefully brought-up are willing to condemn those they supposedly love on circumstantial evidence. As a homosexual living in times that brushed him aside as a confirmed bachelor, Noel Coward more than many must have felt the urge to scandalise the hypocrites drinking tea from china cups who passed for the civilised classes.
The absurdity of preparing a role you will never perform because a God-like director never summons you is so superlatively Beckettian it’s amazing no understudy had thought of making it into a play until understudy-turned-writer Dave Hanson found inspiration while waiting endlessly in the wings. Or perhaps everyone else just baulked at the challenge of measuring themselves against Beckett’s genius, which can make the excruciating sublime.
Rembrandt, one of the greatest portrait painters of all time, portrayed himself with a feathered beret, as an oriental potentate, with his wife in historical dress and simply as himself. A modern equivalent is British artist Sarah Lucas who depicts herself with fried eggs, a skull and a salmon. You could say it’s a case of the sublime to the ridiculous and yet, the appeal of Rembrandt’s theatre must have been more direct in his day even if it was never aggressive.
In the confusing explosion of activity that is the Edinburgh Fringe, NewsRevue has the huge advantage of being a known brand whose appeal is all the greater when a torrent of unsettling news leaves us craving comic relief and the decades-old formula of satire set to music is still the best of tonics.
In our post-fact world where we drown in other people’s opinions, life as a hard-up, stand-up comedian trying to make a name has got harder. And on the Free Fringe periphery of the Edinburgh Fringe – where artists effectively busk in a tatty room with a few uncomfortable seats and a bucket for contributions as there is no formal entrance free – it has become an even more extreme act of faith.
The Italian word for cheerful, allegro in music implies a happy kind of brisk walking pace. As the title of that rare thing – a virtually unknown Rodgers and Hammerstein musical – it is both apt and poignant given that maintaining an allegro mood throughout life is next to impossible.