fri 26/12/2014, first with arts reviews, news and interviews

Downton Abbey: 2014 Christmas Special, ITV

Jasper Rees

“But I do want to be stuck with you.” Five series and five Christmas specials down, Downton fans heard a line of dialogue they had no idea they’d been waiting for all this time....

Best of 2014: Classical CDs

Graham Rickson

Search for shops which still sell classical CDs and it’s likely that you’ll be disappointed, in the UK at least. Peruse the surviving major labels’ lists of new releases and the...

Best of 2014: "Indie" Videogames

Simon Munk

The best games of 2014 were often to be found not from the "AAA" videogame equivalents to Hollywood, but, of course, bedroom coders and small, independent teams. These are the...

Call the Midwife: 2014 Christmas Special, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

The Christmas scoop was the first appearance of the authorial voice, Vanessa Redgrave, playing Jennifer Worth, writing Christmas cards, looking at the photographs of herself with...


Ellin Stein

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is the story of a fading star’s search for professional rehabilitation and personal redemption that perches adroitly between dark...


Emma Simmonds

This year's award-courting survival picture (after 2013's All Is Lost, and 2012's Life of Pi) is based on the genuinely remarkable story of Olympian Louis Zamperini. It's a tale...

Bach B minor Mass, Trinity College Choir, OAE, Layton, St John's Smith Square

David Nice

While the embers of the concert year are dying out around the country, you can be sure of a great blaze-up at St John’s...

Exodus: Gods and Kings

Adam Sweeting

I wish Mel Brooks had directed this, but instead we've got the sort of stodgy techno-epic that has become all too common...

The Wrong Mans, BBC2

Barney Harsent

The recent comedy awards on Channel 4 threw up little in the way of surprises – or, indeed, laughter for that matter....


Matt Wolf

A lot of harsh words have been and will continue to be written about the new movie musical remake of Annie, the Broadway...

Madness, O2 Arena

Matthew Wright

There were silly hats, and venerable, bouncy songs for all the family at the O2 last night. The traditional Madness December...

Reissue CDs Weekly: Millions Like Us

Kieron Tyler

 Various Artists: Millions Like Us - The Story of the Mod Revival 1977–1989A “testosterone-fuelled youth movement” is...

Widowers' Houses, Orange Tree Theatre

Alexandra Coghlan

When the Orange Tree lost all its Arts Council funding earlier this year it was hard to get too outraged. An institution...

theartsdesk at the Dubai International Film Festival

Demetrios Matheou

Dubai is a city that famously emerged from the desert, founded on oil and ambition, rising in an eruption of skyscrapers,...

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek Live, BBC One

Matthew Wright

It’s never a good start when the performers have more to gain than the audience. The album Cheek to Cheek, of which this was...

Classical CDs Weekly: Jean Barraqué, Haydn, Mozart, Michael Tilson Thomas

Graham Rickson

 Jean Barraqué: Sonate pour piano Roger Woodward (Celestial Harmonies)An important reissue of a recording originally...

Serial Finale: Cul-de-Sacs and Curveballs

Fisun Güner

The concluding episode came, and in a confusion of dates I missed it. If you’ve been following the weekly podcast Serial,...

Big Eyes

Matt Wolf

The worlds of marital abuse and artistic fraud collide to eye-opening if also frustrating effect in Big Eyes, Tim Burton's...

Un Ballo in Maschera, Royal Opera

David Nice

Covent Garden’s masked balls circling around the New Year feature not the seasonal bourgeois Viennese couple and a bat-...

Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice

Stuart Houghton

Telltale Games has pioneered the 'box set' model of gaming with their hit episodic adventures based in the Walking Dead...

We Made It: Factum Arte

Florence Hallett

With its team of artists and craftsmen Factum Arte resembles the workshops of old, the rhythmic clatter of hammer and chisel...

The Fall, Series 2 Finale, BBC Two

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Before the second series of The Fall began, I was watching Gillian Anderson being interviewed on This Morning. While the...


Helen K Parker

When I found out Jack King-Spooner was making another game, I didn’t know whether to be happy, or to be sick in my mouth a...

Eric and Little Ern, St James Theatre

Veronica Lee

The audience for this show could probably be divided into to two camps: those who fondly remember watching Morecambe &...


DOWNTON ABBEY CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2013, ITV Remember what happened last December as you wait for this year's extravaganza

CD: THE ALBION CHRISTMAS BAND – ONE FOR THE ROAD Jolly festive folk concert from Fairport Convention's annually recurring spin-off

FEAST ON OUR 2013 SERIES OF YULETIDE SCENES - NO. 7: MADONNA AND CHILD ENTHRONED 500 years on, Bellini's altarpiece for San Zaccaria in Venice still mesmerises

CINDERELLA, NEW WIMBLEDON THEATRE Dallas heroine waves her wand, but the stand-up is the stand-out in classical panto

THE NUTCRACKER, ENGLISH NATIONAL BALLET, LONDON COLISEUM Wayne Eagling's production returns for another bout of rodent control

BBC SINGERS, BBCSO, PONS, BARBICAN Blue skies from Respighi and Strauss, seasonal mystery from Brett Dean 

CLASSICAL CDS WEEKLY: CHRISTMAS CDS Six of 2014's best seasonal releases

disc of the day

DVD: Lucy

Luc Besson makes Johansson divine in a loopy action epic

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Best of 2014: "Indie" Videogames
theartsdesk's videogames writers pick the independent, quirky plays of the year
Listed: Science Fiction in Videogames
Nearly all videogames are fantastical, but few are interestingly fantastical
Listed: The World and Beyond - London Jazz Festival 2014
This year's festival promises further encounters with the strange and new

We Made It

We Made It: Factum Arte

Recreating a facsimile of Tutankhamun’s tomb and a painting by Veronese is all part of revolutionising our experience of art

We Made It: Publisher and Curator Amelia Gregory

Gold leaf and alchemical processes feed into a unique view of publishing

We Made It: Bex Burch, Dagaare Xylophone-Maker

Percussionist explains how the unique craft and culture of a north-Ghanaian people shapes her music


DVD: Lucy

Luc Besson makes Johansson divine in a loopy action epic


Michael Keaton rises to the challenge in Alejandro González Iñárritu's dark comedy


Angelina Jolie steps behind the camera for a tale of WW II heroism and resilience


Downton Abbey: 2014 Christmas Special, ITV

Bring on the foreign franchises? There could be life in the old jalopy yet

Call the Midwife: 2014 Christmas Special, BBC One

How Jennifer Worth's midwifery memoirs became embedded in the national psyche

The Wrong Mans, BBC2

Mathew Baynton and James Corden again prove themselves the right mans for the job

new music

Album of the Year: Roddy Frame - Seven Dials

Former one-man band sings of love, life and death with brilliant bitter-sweetness

Album of the Year: Leonard Cohen - Popular Problems

The coolest of elders strikes again

Album of the Year: Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues

In a year of women who rocked, Gainsville punks topped the charts


Best of 2014: Classical CDs

Ten of the year's most scintillating classical releases

Bach B minor Mass, Trinity College Choir, OAE, Layton, St John's Smith Square

Choral and trumpeter angels from the realms of glory in Bach's panoply of invention

Classical CDs Weekly: Jean Barraqué, Haydn, Mozart, Michael Tilson Thomas

French modernism, classical piano concertos and a delectable collection of orchestral miniatures


Un Ballo in Maschera, Royal Opera

Shining moments and star voices in mostly drab Verdi

The Way Back Home, ENO, Young Vic

A colourful children's show that's got Christmas written all over it

Tristan und Isolde, Royal Opera

Antonio Pappano and Nina Stemme spellbind again in Christof Loy's rigorous Wagner


Widowers' Houses, Orange Tree Theatre

A timely revival of a timeless satire

Eric and Little Ern, St James Theatre

Affectionate tribute to a great double act

City of Angels, Donmar Warehouse

Lavish entertainment from the musical portrait of Forties Tinseltown

visual arts

DVD: Hockney

An affectionate but not entirely satisfactory portrait of the artist

The Great Museum

From politicians to polar bears, unexpected insights behind the scenes

Maggi Hambling, National Gallery

A recent body of work tells of the painter's craft and the stormy Suffolk coast


The Nutcracker, English National Ballet, London Coliseum

Wayne Eagling's production returns for another bout of rodent control

Edward Scissorhands, New Adventures, Sadler's Wells

A hearty dose of cheer, with just a little weirdness, from master storyteller Matthew Bourne

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Royal Ballet

Classy dance, design and music, marinated just a little long in the treacle well


Dara Ó Bríain, Touring

Irish comic is on cracking form on home turf

Noel Fielding, Eventim Apollo

Surreal fun from a delightfully playful comic

John Bishop, Touring

Short on jokes but long on charm


Best of 2014: "Indie" Videogames

theartsdesk's videogames writers pick the independent, quirky plays of the year

Game of Thrones Episode 1: Iron From Ice

Lashings of intrigue but poor pacing mars this pilot episode


Cerebral wandering through the memories of a wonderfully strange games developer

latest comments

The exhibition underlines the fact that Constable...

I found the choir took a while to wake up and get...

Gareth wants the whole world to sing. His theory...

No better ones to be found, Chris, unless you can...

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