Watch. Listen. Read. April



Giselle  –  By Peter Wright, now playing at the Royal Opera House & Live in Cinemas – various dates in April

A watch filled with wonder. Giselle is loved by audiences both old and new to ballet. First performed in Paris in 1841 and now a classic of the modern reporitoire; this is a tale of  love, betrayal, and redemption. What it lacks in smiles it makes up for in story and exquisite choreography, beauty and other- worldliness. Giselle is a peasant girl, who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave. They target her lover for death, but Giselle’s great love frees him from their grasp.

For the Prima Ballerina the role of Giselle is both dramatically and technically challenging. (See also, Giselle backstage rehearsals). The character transforms from a maiden in a romantic crush to a mistress consumed with jealous madness and then finally to a woman-spirit of sacrificial exoneration. The first act of the ballet is filled with historical detail and rustic colour. By contrast, the second act (known as the White Act) plunges the audience into an eerie moonlit forest haunted by the ethereal Wilis – vengeful spirits of young brides who died before their wedding day.


Hockney – See a film of his life now on BBC iplayer.  This is a unique portrait of one of the most acclaimed living artists by acclaimed film-maker Randall Wright.  Take your time with this lovely, lyrical film as it meanders in and out of Hockney’s life using mainly personal archive footage.

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Photo: Daily Telegraph

The biggest ever retrospective of the artist’s life is coming to Tate Britain in 2017 to commerate David’s 80th birthday.



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Photo: The Guardian

The Shepherd’s Life  (BBC radio player) –  The British countryside is alive with gamboling new lambs. A good time then to listen to James Rebanks bestselling account of his life looking after sheep in the Lake District. You can also keep up with his daily goings-on on Twitter @herdyshepherd1.




Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.47.06 PM.png  An Enchanted April (Modern Classic) by Elizabeth von Arnim (lover of H.G.Wells). As we slowly emerge from another dark winter, this engaging novel has, written in 1922, offers warmth and summery hope. This is a tale about the transformative effects of a change in place and pace as four different ladies of the upper middling sort and above, take a break on the Italian Riviera. ‘Elizabeth von Arnim has a wonderfully perceptive eye – especially for human foibles and she demonstrates this particularly well in this engaging and amusing story, where all four women gradually open up to the warmth and beauty of their surroundings, begin to see their lives from a different perspective, and realize that they can make changes which could have a significant effect on their futures. The author’s enchanting descriptions of the medieval castle, its gardens, its grounds and the sun-drenched olive groves leading down to the sea, are a pleasure to read, and it is easy to become seduced by this rather magical story; it’s not a perfect novel, nor entirely convincing, but it’s wonderful for a relaxing, downtime reading experience. Read and enjoy! Or watch the film directed by Mike Newell (1992)

Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 1.48.36 PM.png  Amsterdam, A History of the World’s Most Liberal City by Russell Shorto. As our attention increasingly turns to our (dysfunctional?) relationship with Europe this book reminds us of how great cities rise and fall over centuries. Today Amsterdam’s reputation for soft drugs, prostitution and betraying Anne Frank means many might not know about it’s more admirable past. This thoroughly interesting book reminds us of how this once important port exported ideas and influence, much more than consumer goods, around the world.


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The 400th anniversary of his death is going to be celebrated in grand style all over the media at the end of this month. A “get into the mood” eclectic selection here;

Read – Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard by Ben Crystal. Who’s afraid of William Shakespeare? Just about everyone. He wrote too much and what he did write is inaccessible and elitist. Right? Wrong. This title knocks the stuffing from the staid old myth of Shakespeare, revealing the man and his plays for what they really are: modern, thrilling and uplifting drama.

Watch – Richard Dimbleby lecture – Is Shakespeare Chinese? Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC, who has been described as one of the ‘great Shakespearians of his generation’, delivers the 2016 Richard Dimbleby Lecture. Four hundred years after Shakespeare’sdeath, Gregory reflects on the impact and resonance Shakespeare still has in the contemporary world. 

The power of imagination – Lessons from Shakespeare. Tedx talk by Story Editor, John Bolton, with five lessons from the Bard that still resonate today.

ListenShakespeare’s People. Radio 4’s Front Row asks actors, directors and writers to give their personal take on a favourite Shakespeare character, to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. Part of a wider 2016 BBC Shakespeare Festival.

Great Lives; William Shakespeare.  How and why did this son of an illiterate glovemaker from Stratford on Avon come to bestride the international stage, adopted not only as England’s national poet, but even displacing Goethe and Schiller in Germany? Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre, argues that more than a sense of the man is conveyed in his 37 plays.

Learn – Take a British Council and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust sponsored FREE online course in the life and works of William Shakespeare ,starting on 18th April. Actors and experts from around the world will explain and explore five of Shakespeare’s plays and your knowledge will be quizzed. The plays are: Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest and Macbeth.



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