Front Row

Front Row

United Kingdom

Live magazine programme on the worlds of arts, literature, film, media and music

Episodes

Live from Hay Literary Festival - Elizabeth Strout and Julia Donaldson  

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Elizabeth Strout, discusses her latest novel, Anything is Possible, which looks in detail at some of the lives of those in a small town in Illinois and explores the long term impact of war, abuse and extreme poverty upon the human condition. Kully Thiarai took up her post of Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Wales just a year ago and has recently unveiled two major projects which take steel and the NHS as their inspiration. She reveals more to John. As the Hay Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary, its founder Peter Florence joins John to remember conceiving the idea around a kitchen table, and reflect on how it's grown to become the UK's largest literary festival. And recent studies reveal that reading encourages empathy and putting ourselves in the mind of someone else could improve our social skills. Children's authors, Julia Donaldson, Katherine Rundell and Elizabeth Strout discuss. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Rebecca Armstrong.

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Brian May's 3D photos of Queen, Unseen poems by Sylvia Plath, 40 years of Star Wars  

Queen guitarist Brian May explains how his childhood fascination with stereoscopic imagery led to his documenting the band over the years from an insider's point of view with a collection of unique 3-D photographs. Academic Gail Crowther tells us how she and colleague Peter K Steinberg used picture-editing software and social media to decipher previously unseen Sylvia Plath poems, found on a scrap of carbon paper. Exactly 40 years to the day after the first Star Wars film was released in US cinemas, we explore its impact on popular culture with Mark Miller, creator of Kick-Ass and creative consultant on the X-Men and Fantastic Four movies, and film critic Mark Eccleston. Jason Solomons reports from the Cannes Film Festival, and rates the contenders for the big prizes being awarded this weekend. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producer Marilyn Rust.

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Billy Bragg on skiffle, Hokusai's Great Wave, Capt Jack Sparrow returns, Nicola Benedetti, poetry and atrocity  

Billy Bragg talks to John Wilson about the music that changed the world - skiffle. His book arguing this, Roots, Radicals and Rockers, is also an insightful survey of post-war youth culture. This was simple music, played on homemade instruments by teenagers - punk before punk. But many skiffle players went on to great things - members of The Beatles, for instance. The Great Wave , a picture of a huge blue roller breaking over fishing boats, by the Japanese master, Hokusai, is one of the most widely recognised images in the world. An exhibition at the British Museum, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, looks at the artist's latter years, his most creative according to the curator Tim Clark. And contemporary printmaker and artist Rebecca Salter explains the astonishing technique behind Hokusai's work. This weekend cinemas audiences can see Johnny Depp return as Captain Jack Sparrow in fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film, a role which earned him an Oscar nomination in 2003. But, recently his acting has been overshadowed by stories of his personal life and bad box-office returns - Film critic Angie Errigo comes into look at the career trajectory of the Hollywood actor. Yesterday violinist Nicola Benedetti was awarded The Queen's Medal for Music, the youngest person ever to receive it. She talks about her musical journey. Yesterday Tony Walsh responded to the atrocity in Manchester with poetry. He wasn't the first: Shelley wrote The Mask of Anarchy after the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in 1819, and the bombing of the city in 1996 inspired poems, too. Michael Schmidt, director of the poetry publisher, Carcanent Press, based in Manchester, considers the way poets react to such events. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Julian May.

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Tributes to Sir Roger Moore, The return of Twin Peaks, American crime writer Bill Beverley  

Music journalist Laura Snapes reflects on the Manchester attacks. Matt Thorne on the return of cult TV drama Twin Peaks; after a twenty six year break, will the surreal world of its creator and director David Lynch please new audiences and super fans alike? American crime writer Bill Beverley on the success of his debut novel Dodgers which won a string of awards including a Gold Dagger from the Crime Writers Association. Described as The Wire meets JD Salinger, Dodgers is a coming of age story which raises issues about race, class and youth whilst providing a new take on the classic American road novel. Bond director John Glen and TV and film writer Andrew Collins on Sir Roger Moore, who has died.

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Denise Gough, Fairport Convention, Leonardo da Vinci  

Arts news, interviews and reviews.

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Clive James, Netflix and Cannes, documentary maker Simon Chinn, Damien Hirst in Venice  

When Clive James published his collection of poems Sentenced to Life in 2014, it was expected to be his last because he has terminal leukaemia. Now, three years later, he's publishing a new collection with the apt title of Injury Time. In his sunlit, book-lined studio, James talks to John Wilson about his urgent impulse to write, as he faces death, his meticulously crafted poems about life. Netflix's film Okja was booed at the Cannes Film Festival today as the row over Netflix's place at the festival continues. For the first time, two Netflix films are competing for the Palme d'Or this year. The critic Jason Solomons reports from Cannes on the controversy, and is joined by Simon Chinn, Oscar-winning producer of documentaries Man on Wire and Searching for Sugar Man, whose latest film LA 92 was funded by TV and on-demand channel National Geographic. Early last month Damien Hirst revealed his latest ambitious work Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable at two large venues in Venice. The show's Italian curator Elena Geuna, who has worked with Damien on the project for the last five years, discusses the secrecy surrounding the decade-long planning of the exhibition. Presenter: John Wilson Producer: Rachel Simpson.

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Engelbert Humperdinck on 50 years in music  

50 years since his hit single 'Release Me', veteran singer Engelbert Humperdinck discusses his long career and his new album, which combines his greatest hits with two new tracks. We visit the London studio of Michaël Dudok de Wit, the award winning Dutch animator, to see him in action and talk about his feature film debut The Red Turtle. Produced by Japan's Studio Ghibli and created by a team of French animators lead by Dudok de Wit, The Red Turtle was the only 2-D animated feature to be Oscar nominated at this year's Academy Awards. Here's a rare thing, a new opera - in Welsh. Y Twr (The Tower) has it's world premier on Friday. Front Row drops in on a rehearsal to talk to the composer Guto Puw and librettist Gwyneth Glyn about their adaptation of one the most important Welsh plays of the 20th century. And Caryl Hughes and Gwion Thomas speak of their delight at having the opportunity, at last, of singing an opera in their mother tongue. Plus, following on from the success of F-rating films, seven events at the Bath Literary Festival use the F-rating in their brochure for the first time. Festival Director Alex Clark explains the thinking behind promoting cultural events that celebrate the female experience.

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Guy Ritchie on King Arthur, Redwater and television spin-offs, our fascination with true crime dramas, From Shore to Shore  

Kat and Alfie Moon, Eastenders' loveable couple travel to an Irish village in search of Kat's long-lost son. Redwater is directed by Jesper Nielsen, who worked on Danish political drama Borgen, and written by Eastenders' alumni including Life On Mars creator Matthew Graham. Culture journalist Rebecca Nicholson reviews Redwater and considers the art of the TV spin-off. Highly acclaimed true crime dramas won major awards at Baftas this week. Murdered by my Father is about a so-called honour killing. Damilola, Our Loved Boy recounts the terrible story of the schoolboy stabbed on his way home from school. Three Girls takes on the very difficult topic of the Rochdale sexual grooming gangs. Samira Ahmed talks to Lois Wise about the public fascination for true crime stories, and the dilemmas involved. Director Guy Ritchie's latest film is an epic action adventure, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It stars Charlie Hunnam in the title role, with Jude Law, fetching in assorted leather-wear, as his scheming uncle King Vortigen. Ritchie talks about how he works with actors on set - including here David Beckham, who has a cameo role, and how the folkloric tradition of storytelling influenced the film's narrative. From Shore to Shore is a new play inspired by the lives and little-known stories of people from the Chinese communities in Leeds and West Yorkshire. Playwright Mary Cooper and writer Mimi Webster discuss how the play came about and why it's being presented in unusual venues - Chinese restaurants. Presenter: Samira Ahmed Producer:Julian May. Image credit: Daniel Smith/ Warner Bros.

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Three Girls, Life of Galileo, Mark Bradford  

Nicole Taylor, the writer of Three Girls, a BBC1 drama based on the Rochdale 'grooming' and sex abuse cases which first came to trial 5 years ago, talks about how she adapted the distressing stories of the exploited girls for this three part serial. Three Girls stars Maxine Peake as Sara Rowbotham, the whistle blower who exposed the girls' plight and brought it to the attention of the public. The controversial and acclaimed US artist Mark Bradford is representing his country in the American Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which has just opened. Bradford was born in South Los Angeles and his interest in social and political issues lie at the heart of his work. The artist discusses his new exhibition Tomorrow is Another Day, and to what extent the election of Donald Trump is reflected in his art. BAFTA-winning director Joe Wright - whose films include Atonement and Pride and Prejudice - returns to the theatre with Bertolt Brecht's 20th century masterpiece Life of Galileo. Wright joins Tom Rowlands, one half of the electronic music duo The Chemical Brothers, to talk about working together on this new production at London's Young Vic. The play is about the 17th century scientist Galileo Galilei and his discoveries about the solar system which challenged the prevailing 17th century worldview - a struggle which still resonates strongly today.

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Conn Iggulden, Timberlake Wertenbaker and virtual reality on radio  

Conn Iggulden is one of the most successful authors of historical fiction, writing about the Wars of the Roses, Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar; as well as his hugely popular manual Dangerous Book for Boys. He now turns to St Dunstan, who was Archbishop of Canterbury and lived through the reigns of seven kings in the tenth century. Conn talks to Samira about how Dunstan became a saint, and his legacy. Royal drama The Crown was made by Netflix when they outbid the BBC for the rights. The £100m series was expected to pick up the top awards at the BAFTAs after it led the shortlist with five nominations. But on the night, it missed out entirely. TV writer Andrew Collins discusses what the fate of The Crown reveals about the BAFTAs. Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker has won many awards for her stage plays Our Country's Good, Three Birds Alighting on A Field, and most recently Jefferson's Garden; as well as praise for her radio adaptations of War and Peace and Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet. Her new play, premiering at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, looks at a group of women attempting to block the development of a big hotel on Winter Hill. Front Row spoke to Timberlake on the hill outside Bolton that inspired the drama. Quake is Radio 4's experimental new drama set after a deadly earthquake. As well as the audio drama, there is a virtual reality video to accompany the first episode and graphic novel style animations for the remaining eleven. Quake is also non-linear so apart for the first and last, the episodes can be listened to in any order. Critic Pete Naughton reviews. Presenter : Samira Ahmed Producer : Dymphna Flynn.

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The 2017 Venice Biennale, with Phyllida Barlow at the British Pavilion  

As the six-month-long 57th International Art Exhibition - otherwise known as the Venice Biennale - opens its doors to the world, John Wilson reports from the Italian city. The artist selected for the British Pavilion in the Giardini this year is 73-year-old Phyllida Barlow, following in the footsteps of Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Barbara Hepworth, Howard Hodgkin and Rachel Whiteread. Phyllida Barlow describes the new large-scale sculptures made of concrete, wood, cloth and polystyrene that she has created for her show Folly, and discusses the challenge of representing Britain in an age of global political unrest. Presenter John Wilson Producer Jerome Weatherald.

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Richard III at Hull Truck; Anne With An E; Amy Schumer in Snatched; Tony Kushner  

The 1992 Hull Festival provided the launch pad for Northern Broadsides with the company presenting a new production of Richard III distinguished by its use of the northern voice. Twenty five years on, Northern Broadsides are back in Hull for its UK city of culture celebrations with Mat Fraser as Richard III. Director Barrie Rutter and Mat, who has thalidomide-induced phocomelia, discuss what casting a disabled actor in the role of theatre's most high profile disabled villain has brought to this anniversary production. Anne with an E is a new adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel, Anne of Green Gables. Meg Rosoff reviews the Netflix series which tells the story of Anne Shirley, a precocious orphan placed in the care of uptight Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew on a farm on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Amy Schumer talks to Kirsty about her new film Snatched, where she and her mother, played by Goldie Hawn, are abducted whilst on holiday in Ecuador. Tony Kushner discusses his musical Caroline, Or Change, which is on in Chichester, and also reveals that he's adapting West Side Story for a new film directed by Stephen Speilberg.

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Director John Madden, Pultizer Prize-winning author Richard Ford, Voice coach Barbara Berkery, Edward Kemp, head of RADA  

We speak to director John Madden about his new political thriller Miss Sloane, where Jessica Chastain stars as a ruthless lobbyist taking on the might of the gun lobby. The film was released in the USA two days after Trump was elected and John discusses the effect this had on both on the American box office takings and on how the he now views the film. It is a controversy that has caused thousands of complaints to the BBC and debate in the House of Lords. Last week even saw Judi Dench became involved when she criticised young performers about it. Actors 'mumbling' their dialogue, especially on TV drama, has become a common complaint of modern audiences. The director of RADA Edward Kemp and voice coach Barbara Berkery comes in to tell us why actors are struggling to be heard by viewers - and what can be done to improve their diction. Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford discusses his first non-fiction book, Between Them, a two-part memoir of his parents, Edna and Parker Ford, who lived an itinerant life during the depression until their son's birth in 1944. (Photo: Richard Ford, Jackson, Mississipi, 1947. Credit: Richard Ford).

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King Charles III; Pink Floyd exhibition  

As a controversial play about a Windsor power struggle hits the small screen, we talk to writer Mike Bartlett and director Rupert Goold about adapting King Charles III for TV; complete with constitutional crisis, the Queen's funeral, Diana's ghost, blank verse and the late great Tim Piggott-Smith. Radio 4's Poet in Residence Daljit Nagra begins the first in series of appearances where he takes us through what currently interests and inspires him from the world of poetry. After the success of the David Bowie exhibition The Victoria & Albert Museum in London has mounted another rock based show, this time on the long and varied career of Pink Floyd. The curator Victoria Broakes shows Emma round exhibits that range from psychedelia to synthesisers via flying pigs. Presenter: Emma Dabiri Producer: Ella-mai Robey.

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Alien: Covenant, Giacometti retrospective, How should museums reflect changing social attitudes, Jamestown  

The latest Alien film is a prequel to the 1979 original. Rhianna Dhillon assesses how Alien: Covenant fits into the series and looks at Michael Fassbender's role as not one but two robots. A gong surrounded by ivory tusks was removed from display at Sandringham House last week amid ethical concerns. To discuss how museums should reflect changing views in contemporary society Emma Dabiri is joined by cultural commentator Tiffany Jenkins and curator and writer Priya Khanchandani. The elongated human sculptures from artist Alberto Giacometti are some of the most recognizable works of modern art. As Tate Modern opens the UK's first major retrospective of his work for 20 years, art critic William Feaver gives the low down on the somewhat mythical Swiss painter-sculptor. Jamestown is a new Sky 1 drama set in one of the first British settlements in America in the early 17th century. It begins as a group of women arrive from the UK, paid to travel to the colony to marry men they have never met. Writer Bill Gallagher reveals how the story of these women inspired the drama. Presenter: Emma Dabiri Producer: Hannah Robins (Main Image: scene from Alien Covenant with Carmen Ejogo (rhs) and Amy Seimetz on the left. Credit: Twentieth Century Fox).

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Mervyn Morris, French cultural landscape, Monochrome films  

Mervyn Morris is Jamaica's first Poet Laureate since the country gained independence in 1962. As his tenure draws to a close, the poet reflects on his time in the role, and discusses his new collection, Peelin Orange, which is drawn from his writing over 50 years. With the deciding round of the French presidential election this Sunday, cultural commentators Agnès Poirier and Andrew Hussey discuss the likely impact of a Macron or Le Pen win on the arts in France and whether culture is a political card to be played. With the release of a 'Black and Chrome' edition of the 2015 Oscar-winning movie Mad Max: Fury Road, BFI's Gaylene Gould considers film-makers' love affair with black & white. The Ferryman by William Stott of Oldham is on display for the first time today at Tate Britain having been acquired for the public. John Wilson looks at the painting with the curator Alison Smith who explains that it marks a pivotal moment in this country's art, the embrace of naturalism and progress towards impressionism - British impressionism. Presenter John Wilson Producer Jerome Weatherald.

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Samantha Spiro as Barbara Windsor, Lost sculpture of the Festival of Britiain and a retro album from Danger Mouse  

Samantha Spiro has played the role of Barbara Windsor both on stage and on television and now returns to the role in a new BBC biopic of Dame Barbara. She talks about how she shares the role with three other actors and the contrast with the other roles she is playing such as Catherine the Great on Radio 4. Record producers Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse, and Sam Cohen discuss working together on their album, Resistance Radio: The Man In The High Castle Album. Inspired by an Amazon TV series which imagines a world in which the allies lost WW2, they selected songs from the 50s and 60s, and recorded them with artists such as Beck and Norah Jones. Two weeks ago we revealed that Historic England had unearthed a lost treasure of the 1951 Festival of Britain in a hotel garden in Blackheath. John Wilson joined the daughter of the sculptor Peter Laszlo Peri at a studio in Surrey to see The Sunbathers painstakingly reassembled. Eighty five-year-old Ann MacIntyre had not seen her father's sculpture for over 60 years and believed it lost forever when the Southbank site was demolished at the end of the Festival.

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03/05/2017  

In 2002 the actor Woody Harrelson had a wild night in London which ended with a police pursuit and his arrest. In January he recreated that escapade in his film Lost in London, which was the first to be shown in cinemas live, as it was being shot. As it had a 30 strong cast, 24 locations, chases on foot and in cars, this was an invitation to chaos. One slight hiccup was that an unexploded bomb was discovered in the Thames a bridge that evening and a bridge, crucial to the action, was blocked. Harrelson talks to Samira Ahmed about his project now the film is having a more predictable release. Jude Law stars as the love sick and murderous drifter Gino in star director Ivo van Hove's stage adaptation of Visconti's classic film Obsession. They reduced this lush and expansive movie to just 6 characters, but with huge screens and a treadmill on the Barbican stage, and a roaring lorry engine suspended above it. They explain their radical approach to this classic. The Journey imagines what happened when Martin McGuiness and Ian Paisley travelled in the same car from St Andrews to Glasgow airport during the peace talks. Colm Meaney plays McGuiness and Timothy Spall is Paisley, and the two of them tell Samira how they went about portraying these giants of Northern Irish history. With the announcement today of the contenders for this year's Turner Prize, critic Charlotte Mullins assesses the work of the four shortlisted artists, one of whom will be awarded the £25,000 prize when the winner is announced at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull in December. Producer: Julian May.

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Angels in America, Mindhorn, Storytelling in Greek myths  

Mindhorn is the new film about a faded TV star who reprises his role as an Isle of Man sleuth who has a robotic eye, and can see the truth. Julian Barratt (Mighy Boosh) and Simon Farnaby (Horrible Histories) co-wrote and co-star and talk to Kirsty about poking fun at actorly behaviour, and how the film parodies Bergerac and the Sixty Million Dollar Man. Tony Kushner on his epic play Angels in America, which he wrote and set during the Aids crisis in America in the 1980s, and which is being revived in a new production at the National Theatre, starring Andrew Garfield, Russell Tovey, Denise Gough and Nathan Lane. Madeline Miller, the Orange Prize winning author of The Song of Achilles, and the writer and broadcaster Natalie Haynes, whose new book The Children of Jocasta retells with the story of Antigone, discuss turning the tales of the Greek myths into novels and why the ancient legends still have a contemporary and universal appeal. Presenter Kirsty Lang Producer Dymphna Flynn.

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