Awesome Autumn culture planner
It's all going on! Behold, your cheat-sheet to the season's best art, theatre, TV, books and film in the UK
Autumn is the best time of year for culture vultures, with exciting new art, books, TV, theatre and films arriving at every turn. Oh yeah! Here are our picks – calendars at the ready.
Vogue fashion and portrait photographer Tim Walker‘s enchanting, fantastical, frankly insane work is the subject of a new V&A exhibition (from 21 Sep). Tilda Swinton, Björk and, er, Sir David Attenborough are among his subjects and he’s also created 10 new works for the show.
Meanwhile this autumn’s big-hitter is William Blake at Tate Britain (11 Sep – 2 Feb 2020). The visionary painter and poet’s work will be imaginatively displayed – some of it blown up to enormous scale using digital technology, other works in an immersive room that recreates the space in which Blake first showed his art in 1809.
Elsewhere Into the Night: Cabarets & Clubs in Modern Art at the Barbican (4 Oct – 19 Jan) is probably the nearest I’ll get to clubbing this autumn. It’s such a cool concept – a history of cabarets, clubs, dancefloors and party spaces that inspired artists from the 1880s to the 1960s, including the Berlin cabaret scene in Weimar Germany and Harlem’s jazz clubs and lifesize recreations of some of the hotspots.
Then there’s a major retrospective of 88-year-old Bridget Riley‘s life’s work at the Hayward Gallery (23 Oct – 26 Jan), taking in her famous monochrome, makes-your-eyes-go-funny Op Art paintings from the 1960s among its 70 year career span.
And finally, playing “spot the Angel Of The North” as we drive up the A1 to Newcastle is a family ritual in our house (Geordie in-laws, you see), so I’ve got a soft spot for Antony Gormley’s striking sculpture. His new show at the Royal Academy (21 Sep – 3 Dec) is billed as his most ambitious in a decade and involves six tonnes of steel mesh, eight km of coiled tubing and a gallery flooded with clay and sea water. Blimey!
You probably don’t need me to tell you any more about The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s long-awaited follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, the headline-grabbing book of the season, which picks up the narrative 15 years on. So instead, let’s talk about the juicy glut of musicians’ memoirs heading our way. Did they all sit around together in a rockstars-only co-working space, with their typewriters, penning their tomes between fag breaks, I wonder? And if so, who made the tea?
Probably not Elton John, I’d hazard a guess. Me (published Oct) is apparently a no-holds autobiography – we’re talking both access and excess all areas. Another mythical music biz figure telling all in Oct is Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry, with Face It and I’m also excited about Mister Good Times by Norman Jay; club culture legend, co-founder of radio station Kiss and a man who definitely knows how to fill a dancefloor.
On a ’90s tip, Hell Is Round The Corner (Oct) by rapper Tricky traces his rise from his tragic childhood in Bristol to 1990s music industry excess and beyond. Quick dig that Maxinquaye CD out and trip and hop down memory lane. Elsewhere Charlatans singer Tim Burgess publishes One Two Another (Nov), a collection of lyrics and personal insight. (Side note: anyone know what is going on with his hair at the moment? It’s, um, extraordinary.)
My pick of the bunch is Afternoons With The Blinds Drawn by Suede frontman Brett Anderson, the follow-up to his exquisitely evocative childhood/early adulthood memoir, Coal Black Mornings. This one is the money shot, unpicking the heady early ’90s when Suede soared while Anderson plunged into addiction. Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll? Just a bit.
The golden age of TV shows no sign of tarnishing this season. Heck, even Gwyneth Paltrow has swapped the silver screen for the gogglebox, with a role in The Politician (Netflix, 27 Sep), the new comedy-drama from Ryan Murphy, the man behind Glee and The People vs OJ Simpson. She plays the depressed mother of an oddball teen with designs on becoming school president.
Talking of Hollywood hotshots, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell star in The Morning Show (Apple+ TV, Nov), a new sitcom in which Jen plays a morning TV news anchor whose co-host Carell is fired for sexual harassment. Which, er, doesn’t that sound that funny actually but we’ll keep our fingers crossed. Helen Mirren is back on TV too this autumn in Catherine The Great (Sky Atlantic, Oct), playing another queen, well, 18th century Russian empress to be precise. I have a hunch the costumes will be fabulous.
Finally, two returning favourites. Sharon Horgan’s deliciously dark comedy (or is it a documentary?!) about modern parenting, Motherland, is back on BBC2 this autumn, with Sharon recently posting a trailer on her Instagram about the hell that is panic-buying school shoes. And clear your diary for Sunday 17 Nov as you won’t want to leave the sofa – royal drama The Crown (Netflix) returns for season 4. The action moves to the 1970s, with Camilla slinking into the picture and the always-excellent Olivia Colman playing the monarch in midlife. Cannot. Wait.
Talking of The Crown, its alumni Claire Foy and Matt Smith (aka The Queen and Prince Philip, of course) are reunited in Lungs at the Old Vic (14 Oct–9 Nov), playing a couple wrestling with life’s big issues, such as whether to have children, against the backdrop of a world teetering on the edge of environmental and political disaster.
Russell Brand also pops up at the Old Vic this season. On 29 Sep, he curates Cracked, an evening of seven pared-down solo performances (with no fancy staging or costumes) on the themes of mental health and addiction. The performing actors are still tba but there’s a corking set of writers involved, including Lena Dunham, actor Matt Perry (Chandler!) and singer/poet Kate Tempest.
This sounds, um, interesting: & Juliet reimagines the life of Romeo’s star-crossed lover if she didn’t die (sorry, spoiler!) at the end. It’s a West End musical (Shaftesbury Theatre, 2 Nov – 30 March) created by Swedish ’90s/noughties pop supremo Max Martin and will feature some of his biggest hits, including Britney’s Baby One More Time and Everybody (Backstreet’s Back). I can’t quite decide whether it’s the best idea ever or the worst. Let’s wait and see.
Enigmatic Italian writer Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels have become modern coming-of-age classics, despite the first book, My Brilliant Friend being published just seven years ago. Tracing the complicated friendship between two young girls who grow up in post-war Naples, the story has now been adapted for the stage. Starring Niamh Cusack, My Brilliant Friend is at the National Theatre from 12 Nov – 31 Jan.
Can’t make it down to the National? I tell anyone who’ll listen about National Theatre Live, a truly excellent initiative now celebrating its 10th year. Performances of major West End plays are beamed live to regional screens which means us provincial types get access to brilliant theatre without London prices and travel logistics. I’m off to see the live Fleabag stage show at an Oxford cinema this week (just a teensy bit excited) and there’s plenty more great stuff where that came from this autumn. Top of my list are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring the majestic Gwendoline Christie (17 Oct), political-meets-personal drama Hansard (7 Nov) and – hot priest alert! – Present Laughter with Andrew Scott on 28 Nov. See here for your nearest local venue.
I’m sorry, I just can’t bring myself to put Cats on here. Absolutely not. I mean, did you see the insane trailer? Instead let’s talk about Judy (out 4 Oct), as in Garland, with Renee Zellweger going for Oscar glory portraying the singer in her tragic twilight years in the ’60s, when she pops up on the London cabaret club scene.
Talking of divas, J.Lo is back, in Hustlers (13 Sep), in which she heads up a team of ex strip club employees turned scamsters who wreak revenge on their gross Wall Street clients. Think Ocean’s 11 meets Showgirls.
Elsewhere, Hitsville: The Making Of Motown (4 Oct) is a documentary that marks the 60th anniversary of the legendary Detroit record label, featuring new interviews with the likes of founder Berry Gordy and the ever soulful Smokey Robinson (but not Gordy’s ex wife, Diana Ross, sadly).
Hollywood’s most gilded youth gather for The King (1 Nov) which stars the patron saint of Generation Z, Timothée Chalamet, as maverick monarch Henry V, with support from Lily-Rose Depp (you might know her parents) and Robert Pattinson. And finally, advance warning on a Christmas corker: Louisa May Alcott’s 19th century coming-of-age classic, Little Women, gets the Hollywood treatment, courtesy of hotshot director, Greta Gerwig (Ladybird). It stars Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan and Oxford gal Florence Pugh. Boom!