Capturing the Zeitgeist: Cultural Events of 2020
✨ FREDDIE HUTCHINS
Perhaps now more than ever, we all need things to look forward to. And at least in the world of the Arts, it's never difficult to find something! I’ve picked the book, exhibition, play, TV series and (hopefully) musical event I'm most looking forward to over the coming year. What are yours? We'd love to know - so get in touch @revelsinhand over on Twitter and Instagram.
The Mirror and the Light - Hilary Mantel
March will usher in the conclusion of Mantel’s blinding literary trilogy charting the extraordinary career of Thomas Cromwell. The first of the series, Wolf Hall, was published in 2009, with television and theatre adaptations following. The second volume Bring Up The Bodies was published in 2012. Both won the Man Booker Prize. Following a stealth advertising campaign which included mysterious billboards in Leicester Square, March 2020 will conclude the wait for the final volume. Even the book cover design has since received much attention (and is generally agreed to be rather fine, if quite different to the previous two volumes). All the stage-managed hubbub aside, Mantel has done it. She’s finally done it. I so hope she’s happy with her efforts. It’s surely a near-impossible task to conclude something so outrageously hyped, so very much-longed for, already so decorously applauded. She is an author of true talent, skill and bravery, and I can’t wait to read her latest offering.
(Incidentally - Wolf Hall is not the book I would recommend to those new to Mantel’s writing. It is epic: dense, twisted… and perhaps a little torturous. Bring Up The Bodies felt, to me, like the reward for attentive reading of its predecessor. I would begin with one of her belting Gothic yarns - of which there are many. Beyond Black is a personal favourite - but Fludd, The Giant O’Brien or her remarkable autobiography Giving Up The Ghost would all be delicious places to make Mantel’s acquaintance.)
Caravaggio-Bernini: Baroque in Rome - Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Coming to Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum in February for four short months, this is the exhibition I’m most looking forward to this year. Strangely, I can’t find it anywhere on any art critic’s rundown of shows to catch in 2020, which I can only assume is due to the well-trodden nature of its subject matter. But I mean... Caravaggio. And Bernini. And Baroque. Could there be a more delectable troika? I for one am always up for extra helpings of each. What’s more, the Rijksmuseum always does exhibitions so well: it's always so visitable. We were in Paris to see the Da Vinci exhibition at the beginning of the year - and while it was utterly worthwhile, it was also utterly exhausting. Mere mention of the word Louvre is now enough to make my feet ache, my palms get clammy and my throat turn dry as I remember myself back in those endless lines of people, jostling for space in front of any one of the innumerable - mostly minuscule - notes and sketches. No, no. Better to go big, bold… and Baroque.
4000 Miles - Old Vic
No tickets left, of course. Enough people, myself included, are perfectly willing to give the remarkable Timothée Chalamet the benefit of the doubt when it comes to his West End theatre debut - and of course no doubts could be had concerning his sparring partner, the exceptional Eileen Atkins. (Full disclosure: I'm sat behind a pillar in the gods on a Wednesday matinée - but hey, I got a ticket.) Amy Herzog’s play was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and played twice Off Broadway whilst gaining a cult following. It’s been seen in the UK already at Bath Theatre Royal, but Chalamet’s booking at the Old Vic, under Matthew Warchus’s ever-detailed direction, promises to make this production one of the theatrical events of the year.
I shall report back.
Succession Season 3 - HBO
Succession is always my answer to anyone who asks what they should watch next on TV. It’s also a pretty good bet, since being an HBO production it’s not on Netflix, meaning there are plenty of people who have yet to sink their teeth into the acrid, acid, totally addictive world of the Roys. Yes, it might be Murdoch-inspired, but this show swiftly surpassed all measures of mean comparison to become an enthralling entity all its own. Also - and crucially - the acting and the writing are both excellent (Harriet Walter as the matriach deserving of a particular mention.) Such excellence is, I think, a rare thing - and to be savoured when it comes along. Never before have I been so irresistibly drawn to a series so devoid of likeable, relatable characters. It’s a curious kind of schadenfreude - their brokenness is their draw, and leaves you snugly - and smugly - thinking thank God I’m not like them. Season 2 was as bonkers and breathtaking a follow-up to the audacious first season as fans could have hoped for, with plenty of scope for further dastardly deeds in Season 3. I can’t wait.
If I put it here, it must be true, right? Of course I have absolutely no information on which to base this hope, other than what’s already been issued: that Adele has been recording, and that an album had been expected in time for Christmas 2019. For me, her third album felt a little like it had been made whilst suffering from writer’s block (or whatever the singer’s equivalent may be.) Whilst there were a couple of true wonders, there were also several tracks which felt more generic than the 24 Carat Adele we know and love. This is a woman capable of putting human thoughts and feelings to music in such an immediate, expressive way that millions of people can recognise their own experiences in her music. That's an exceptional gift. The reason I’m longing for her fourth album is that I think we all need her to do that again for us now. The world would be just a little less scary if Adele could sing about it in the way only she knows how. Come on, babe. We’re listening.
Let us know what you're looking forward to. And keep an eye out for upcoming Revels in Hand shows at the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard or the Club at the Ivy.