The Sunday dozen

25th February 2024

John Wyver writes: eleven articles from the past week, and an archive from 1967, that especially caught my attention, plus the usual musical bonus. The image above by Ene-Liis Semper is from the 2012 Lyric, Hammersmith production of Three Kingdoms, revisited by Natasha Tripney via a link below.

With gems from Black collections, the Harlem Renaissance reappears: a fascinating New York Times article by Aruna D’Souza about the background to a major show of painting, sculpture, film and photography opening this week at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (and which I’m hoping to visit at the end of next month); see also by D’Souza from the Times, Six artists reflect on the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance and Holland Cotter’s positive and informative review of the show, The Met aims to get Harlem right, the second time around.

Coloniality and the British Museums: a powerful essay at History Workshop by Tobey Ahamed-Barke about the failure of institutions ‘to explain how violent British imperialism contributed to the holdings of British museums’ and about the continuing display of human remains:

They display corpses as objects of scientific interest and morbid curiosity, denying them individuality and humanity. This, in turn, creates a feeling of personal devaluation and unbelonging: British museums do not see these deceased individuals as worthy of personhood, and if that is the case, how can they value modern communities of colour?

Two armies in one: you really need to read James Meek for the LRB [£, but limited free access] on the Russians in Ukraine – measured yet engaged, deeply informed and ultimately far from hopeful.

A love letter to the BT Tower: Ian Dunt for his Substack Striking 13:

The BT Tower is a reassuring reminder that some things stay the same, for a while at least. That there is solidity as well as flux, somewhere for you to find your footing. It’s a reminder of the fundamental weirdness of the city, its functional eccentricity, a simultaneous look back and forward.

The Post Office Tower of London: … and as an added attraction from the glory days, a 1967 cinema documentary shown:

The text file that runs the internet: a rich essay from The Verge by David Pierce about the history of web crawlers and their links with AI.

“Text is not holy:” Revisiting Three Kingdoms: in her invaluable Substack about European theatre, Café Europa, Natasha Tripney offers a fascinating look back to the ground-breaking 2012 Lyric, Hammersmith co-production with Estonia’s Theatre NO99 and Munich Kammerspiele – and there’s lots here to reflect on about the current state of British theatre.

Appreciations: Josephine Tey: Billy Smart has drawn my attention to another engaging essay by Peter Hitchens in a – for me at least – obscure American publication, The Lamp, the subhead of which describes itself rather wonderfully as ‘a Catholic journal of literature, science, the fine arts, etc.’ Hitchens hymns the mysterious author of plays and novels and is especially, and rightly, enthusiastic about Tey great detective mystery The Daughter of Time (1951).

Armchair Theatre: The End of the Line (1970): for Forgotten Television Drama, Joseph Oldham, author of Paranoid Visions: Spies, Conspiracies and the Secret State in British Television Drama (2017), reflects most productively on a little-known original script for television by John le Carré; rejected by the BBC’s The Wednesday Play series, the drama set mostly in a train compartment was subsequently made for Thames Television.

Through a Herne’s eye: on Ursula K. Le Guin’s Five Novels: the wonderful Library of America project has just issued a collection of the author’s lesser-known novels, which the volume’s editor Brian Attebery considers here for Los Angeles Review of Books.

An evening with Melissa McCarthy and C.D. Rose: David Collard at The Glue Factory organises a monthly online meet with innovative, creative writers that you can join simply be sending him an e-mail; the most recent was with the author of the terrific Photo, Phyto, Proto, Nitro a collection of essays about photography and much more published by Sagging Meniscus Press, and the writer whose new novel is Walter Benjamin Stares at the Seapublished by Melville House; details via the main link, together an entry point to a recording of the event.

Lady Day of the Alhambra: elegant, exquisite prose from Ian Penman for Harper’s, writing about Billie Holiday and responding to Paul Alexander’s Bitter Crop: The Heartache and Triumph of Billie Holiday’s Last Year

And finally: … and so this last slot can only be Lady Day, here singing ‘Fine and Mellow’ in 1957 with an extraordinary line-up including Lester Young, Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge.


  1. Billy Smart says:

    Reading that great piece about Three Kingdoms I did find myself thinking, ‘this is everything that I stand against’ at times. I saw Simon Stephens being interviewed in 2011 and he said that:

    He makes most of his money through German productions of his plays. He finds the wildly interpretive German directorial style liberating, rather than frustrating. He had just been performing Wastwater in Germany. In the post show discussion the youngest actor had said that he prepared for performance by trying to get into character, and then concentrating on really listening and responding to Linda Bassett onstage. This made the German audience laugh, because the approach was so alien to their conceptual tradition.

    The tenor of the blog discourse about Three Kingdoms resulted in a further (2016), academic, article by Melissa Poll for Contemporary Theatre Review, ‘When Little is Said and Feminism is Done? Simon Stephens, the Critical Blogosphere and Modern Misogyny’ –

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