Arts features

Interview: Sarah Solemani

By Simon Round, September 16, 2010

Is it possible to write a comedy about a couple living on benefits without it being perceived as a commentary on Broken Britain?

Sarah Solemani thinks so. She plays Becky in Him & Her - a sitcom about Steve and Becky, a couple of happy benefit bums who never leave their bedsit. In some ways it is very BBC3 - featuring, as the continuity announcer might put it, strong language and frank discussion of sex. There is also quite a lot of going to the toilet (with sound effects) which leaves little to the imagination.


Edinburgh top 10 - the acts we loved

September 2, 2010

Rachel Rose Reid
A former UK Young Storyteller of the Year, Rachel Rose Reid is making a name for herself in the ancient art of storytelling. In her self-penned show, I'm Hans Christian, she entwined modern tales of love that go awry with the unglossed fairy tales and unfulfilled sexual longings of Hans Christian Andersen, the 19th-century Danish author of more than 200 stories.


Interview: Steven Isserlis

By Jessica Duchen, September 2, 2010

Steven Isserlis is probably Britain's best-loved and most highly respected solo cellist. At 51, with his distinctive mop of curls and a family tree that takes in figures as diverse as Rabbi Moses Isserlis, Felix Mendelssohn, Karl Marx and Helena Rubinstein, he has been at the forefront of British musical life over several decades.

As a cellist his tone is remarkable - indeed, unmistakable: he has long preferred to use gut strings, which give his sound a burnished, soulful timbre rather than the harsher, sock-it-to-'em quality of the metal strings employed by most big-time soloists.


Interview: Natalie Clein

By Jessica Elgot, August 26, 2010

Natalie Clein once said her pet hate is getting on an aeroplane with her cello, and people asking her why she does not play the flute. But almost as irritating for the world-renowned cellist is the suggestion that classical music is elitist.

Her green eyes blaze and her back stiffens. "When anyone says the word 'elitist' I can feel myself starting to bristle. I want everyone to come to my concerts," she exclaims.


Interview: Robert Wistrich

By Winston Pickett, August 26, 2010

Robert Wistrich, often described as the leading expert on the history of antisemitism, has a new book out on the subject - a 1,100-page brick of a book, in fact. Variously described as a "history" or "encyclopaedia", Wistrich's Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism From Antiquity to the Global Jihad is actually more a lengthy exposition of the ideas behind anti-Jewish hatred - their origins and particularly their cancerous spread through the contemporary world.


I get my best comic material from God

By Jessica Elgot, August 19, 2010

Simon Rich has made a living making people laugh, but secretly the Saturday Night Live writer wishes he could terrify them.

"I love horror," the 26-year-old New Yorker confides. "I've tried and failed so many times to write horror. It just ends up being funny. But the greatest horror writers are usually very witty - Stephen King writes some great jokes. The best comedy comes from the most incredible situations where the stakes could not be higher."


Hustlers and courtesans - my week on the Fringe

August 12, 2010

Tuesday August 3
Welcome to Scotland, says the sign at the border, "home of Rabbi Burns", and on to the city of Edinburgh, home - for the next three weeks - of Jewish Chronicles, my Fringe show of stories in song about all things, erm, Jewish.


Interview: Howard Jacobson

By Gerald Jacobs, August 4, 2010

It is a sunny morning in Soho. On the hotel terrace where Howard Jacobson is eloquently considering what it means to be a Jew, the clinking of coffee cups and the odd Yiddish imprecation mingle with the sights and sounds of London’s most cosmopolitan strip of earth.

Thematically and literally, this is familiar territory. Many have been the discussions with this most articulate of writers trying to identify the elusive essentials of being Jewish. And, however much this feels like putting up a tent in a hurricane, it is always stimulating, always fruitful.


Wincing with the Amstells

By Alan Montague, August 4, 2010

Simon Amstell is best known for bursting celebrity egos as the host of the BBC pop quiz, Never Mind the Buzzcocks. After three years of laying into the likes of Cheryl Cole and the Sugababes, he declared himself bored, quit the show and disappeared from our TV screens.

Now he is back, making his debut as an actor in an autobiographical sitcom he has co-written with Buzzcocks collaborator Dan Swimer.


Interview: Norman Lebrecht

By Sue Fox, August 4, 2010

‘Mahler helps us make sense of our modern world,” explains Norman Lebrecht. “Uniquely, he is a composer who was derided in his lifetime, ignored for decades afterwards but ultimately displaced Beethoven at the box office.”

At 62, Lebrecht is one of the world’s most prolific and widely read commentators on music and culture. Before immersing himself in the arts, he studied Talmud and rabbinic debate — knowledge which has stood him in very good stead, especially when it comes to Mahler, whose 150th anniversary is being celebrated this year.