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Muddy’s best autumn culture

It's all going on! Behold, your cheat-sheet to the season's best art, theatre, music and film, as curated by Muddy's deeply cultural Kerry Potter.

Shape Shifters, Hayward Gallery

Autumn is a brilliant time of year to be a culture vulture, with exciting new art, music, theatre and films arriving at every turn. So, diaries at the ready, let’s get some cerebral outings sorted, shall we?


Pull out the polka dots from your wardrobe – the legendarily dotty, octogenarian Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is popping up everywhere this autumn. Catch one of her insanely Instagrammable infinity mirror rooms at the Victoria Miro Gallery (3 Oct – 21 Dec) and then go see the new movie about her life, Kusama Infinity, in cinemas and on-demand from 5 Oct.  Kusama’s also part of the new Space Shifters exhibition at the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre (26 Sep – 6 Jan). Her ‘Narcissus Garden’, which has been touring galleries around the world for almost 50 years (yes, really), consists of 1500 mirrored balls – perfect for, well, narcissists. Space Shifters also includes shiny, reflective works by Anish Kapoor, Richard Wilson and a host of other artists that subvert our relationship with our surroundings. Think a turbo-charged version of the house of mirrors at the funfair.

I’m always intrigued by the Turbine Hall installations at the Tate Modern – how on earth do you fill such a cavernous space? – so I’ll be heading down to check out the new one from Tania Bruguera, a Cuban artist who create “arte util” (art as activism, addressing political concerns). Opening 2 Oct, the details are under wraps but her previous works have involved visitors taking lie detector tests and crowd control exercises.

The annual Frieze Art Fair (5-7 Oct) in Regent’s Park is always worth a gander – Barbara Hepworth’s glorious sculptures feature in Frieze Masters this year – while all you hipsters out there will want to make a beeline to a rather less chichi part of town to check out the spanking new Goldsmiths Centre For Contemporary Art in New Cross. Once a Victorian public bath house, it’s now showcasing an esoteric selection of modern artists.

This autumn sees Warwickshire’s Compton Verney casting a new light on the work of the great late-Victorian master, James McNeill Whistler, in Whisler and Nature (Sat Oct 20 – Dec 16), curated in partnership with The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow. The exhibition, which includes 90 oil paintings, explores the artist’s revolutionary attitude towards the natural world.

Finally, for a date night with a difference, try Modern Couples: Art, Intimacy and the Avant-garde at the Barbican (10 Oct – 27 Jan), featuring the fruits of the 20th century’s most celebrated creative partnerships. Pablo Picasso and Dora Maar, and Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West are among the 40 couples featured.



I’m a massive fan of the très cool Christine & The Queens so hurray for the French singer’s new album, Chris, arriving next week (21 Sep). She’ll be performing at Birmingham O2 Academy on Mon Nov 26.  If the ridiculously catchy ‘80s-grooved single Girlfriend is anything to go by, it should be a doozy.

Talking of interesting women, Lily Allen’s eye-watering, no-punches-pulled memoir, My Thoughts Exactly, is also published on 21 Sep with live dates in Birmingham and December following in Dec. And don’t miss the return of super-cool folksy US singer-songwriter, Cat Power. Her first album in six years, Wanderer (out 5 Oct) includes a Rihanna cover and a cameo from Lana Del Rey. Tickets remain for her London gig at the Roundhouse on Tues Oct 23.

Cat Power returns after 6 year hiatus with new album, Wanderer. Photo by Eliot Lee Hazel

Having read Brett Anderson’s compelling, poetic autobiography, Coal Black Morning, on a sun-lounger this summer, I’m all set The Blue HourSuede’s eighth album, out 21 Sep. Fellow ‘90s indie kids should also note that The Verve’s Richard Ashcroft is also back in business, with new solo album, Natural Rebel (he always was modest, ahem) out 18 Oct. Big in America, BRIT award winners, festival headliners – quirky Mancunian synth-poppers The 1975 are a huge deal. Their new one, A Brief Enquiry Into Online Relationships (they like a lengthy album title), out 30 Nov, unpicks singer Matty Healy’s heroin addiction (don’t worry, he’s OK now). Pub quiz fact: singer Healy is the son of Loose Women’s Denise Welch and actor Tim Healy. Yup, really.

If you’ve seen Edgar Wright’s superlative heist movie Babydriver you’ll recognise the opening track as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion‘s belter tune Bellbottoms. The man himself will be touring solo with The Melvins and is at Birmingham O2 Academy 2 on Tues Oct 23 former White Stripes frontman Jack White is also playing the same venue on Wed Oct 17.

Another biggie is The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill 20th Anniversary World Tour at Arena Birmingham on Tues Nov 27. The multi-platinum former Fugees singer and took the world by storm two decades ago as a solo artist with singles from the album including Doo Wop (That Thing) and Everything Is Everything. It won her 5 GRAMMY®  wins.

North Wales’ pop eccentric Gruff Rhys – ex-Super Furry Animals – has this year released his lush critically-acclaimed fifth solo album Babelsberg, made with The BBC National Orchestra of Wales. He’ll be at The Glee Club, Birmingham on Tues Nov 13.

You can also catch Liverpool band Echo & The Bunnymen‘s reinterpretation of 13 songs from their superb back catalogue coinciding with new album, The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon at Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, on Sun Oct 21. Other highlights at the same venue this autumn include Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox on Nov 22, The Proclaimers (sold out returns only) on Nov 2 and South African jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim on Oct 18, warwickartscentre.



National Theatre Live is a truly excellent initiative – performances of major West End plays are beamed live to regional screens, which means us provincial types get access to some seriously brilliant theatre without London prices and travel logistics. Check the website for the one nearest you. This autumn’s programme includes Polly Stenham’s Julie, starring Vanessa “Princess Margaret” Kirby (I’ve seen it – it’s intense), King Lear with Ian McKellen and the highly anticipated Antony & Cleopatra with Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes.
Speaking of lofty art forms luring in new crowds, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden celebrates the reopening of its newly renovated events spaces with a series of free lunchtime music and dance performances in its foyer. Taking place at 1pm for the next four Fridays, it sure beats sitting in Pret A Manger with a soggy sarnie. There’s also various singing workshops, tours and mini-recitals, most of which cost £10-£15 max.

Troilus and Cressida. Photo by (c) RSC

Over at Stratford the RSC’s winter 2018 season includes Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida (Oct 12 – Nov 17) directed by Gregory Doran in the RST, the first gender-balanced production of the Bard’s “most testosterone-fuelled” play. Set in the siege of Troy, it will have a 50/50 split of male and female actors and collaboration with virtuoso percussionist Evelyn Glennie. This is followed by a revival of the critically-acclaimed David Edgar adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Dec 4 – Jan 20 2019), back by popular demand following its hugely successful run last winter.

In the Swan Theatre you can catch Michael Boyd’s critically-acclaimed Tamburlaine starring the excellent Jude Owusu (until Dec 1), Anil Gupta and Richard Pinto’s brilliantly funny new version of Moliere’s comedy Tartuffe (until Feb 23) reimagined in modern-day Birmingham. The season ends with Simon Godwin directing Kathryn Hunter in the title role of Shakespeare satire Timon of Athens (Dec 7 – Feb 22 2019)And First Encounters with Shakespeare: The Comedy of Errors  for 7 – 13-year-olds is touring schools and theatres across the UK (Oct 19-27).

Designed by RSC Visual Communications (c) RSC

Elsewhere, Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, the modern classic and Tony and Olivier awards-magnet known for its subversive all-male cast, is back for another twirl this autumn. Catch it at Birmingham Hippodrome on Feb 5 – 16 2019.

A new production of Shakespeare In Love, an adaptation of the Oscar-winning film starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes, opens at Bath in October, reaching Oxford Playhouse 30 Oct – 3 Nov. It tackles the Bard’s early life, when he’s suffering from writer’s block (know the feeling, pal) and at least with this version you don’t have to endure Gwynnie’s cringeworthy, wailing Oscars speech.

The Kiln Theatre, formerly The Tricycle, is a gorgeous, bijou arts theatre in Kilburn (north-west London so the right side of the city for us, travel-wise) and also the stomping ground of acclaimed novelist, Zadie Smith. With NW6 providing the backdrop for much of her work, it makes sense that Stephen Sharkey’s adaptation of her blockbuster debut, White Teeth, is opening here at the Kiln on 26 Oct. Pop into quirky Kilburn institution, Small & Beautiful, for a delicious and insanely cheap dinner afterwards.



It’s already been made into a film several times and a musical, but it seems there’s life in A Star Is Born yet, with this latest version (out 5 Oct) directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. He plays a washed-up country singer who takes a shy newbie with a giant voice, played by Lady Gaga (unrecognizable when not wearing a dress made of meat or a lobster as a hat), under his wing. Another story we’ve all heard before gets a refresh in the guise of First Man (out 12 Oct). La La Land director Damien Chazelle’s biopic of Neil Armstrong, the first man in the moon, has Ryan Gosling (be still my beating heart) playing the legendary astronaut and Claire Foy, last seen as The Queen in The Crown, as his wife, Janet.

Did someone say “wife”? Glenn Close plays one not to be messed with in – wait for it – The Wife. A career-best performance no less, according to one reviewer, Close is the supportive spouse of a pompous writer in this black comedy (out 28 Sep). He becomes even more unbearable when he wins the Nobel prize… but is she quite as supportive as she seems? Widows, meanwhile, does away with husbands altogether – the menfolk are criminals who die during a botched robbery, so their partners join forces and take over the firm. Sound familiar? It’s a remake of Lynda LaPlante’s hammy, ‘80s TV show. With Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez and Elizabeth Debicki starring, it looks like a lot of fun (out 6 Nov).

And finally, fancy something a bit silly? Juliet, Naked (out 2 Nov) is a rom-com based on a Nick Hornby novel. Ethan Hawke plays a reclusive US ‘90s rock star called Tucker Crowe who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a bored British woman, played by Rose Byrne, whose boring boyfriend (Chris O’Dowd) is an obsessed fanboy of… Tucker Crowe. It’s a somewhat unlikely love triangle but the leads are eminently watchable. Bring on the Butterkist.

 Words @Kerry_Potter      

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