Les Blancs at the National Theatre now until 2nd June
Lorraine Hansberry’s final drama, written eleven years after her most acclaimed work A Raisin in the Sun, is an oft-neglected masterpiece of the American stage, and a ‘highly theatrical search for the soul of post-colonial Africa.’ In it, an African country is on the edge of revolution, as it prepares to overthrow colonial presence in search of independence. Tshembe, the protagonist, is a black intellectual, the son of a revolutionary who has been living in England. The play is an exploration of the cost, and the joy of revolution for a state, and a family, both in the process of carving out an independent identity. Les Blancs marks the National Theatre debut of the multi-award-winning director Yaël Farber, whose productions include The Crucible (Old Vic) and the internationally-acclaimed Mies Julie and Nirbhaya. Tickets from £5 with NT Entry Pass.
The Maids at Trafalgar Studios now until 21st May
In a luxurious bedroom, two maids played by Uzo Abuda (Orange Is The New Black) and Zawe Ashton (Fresh Meat) fantasize about killing their employer, Mistress, played by Laura Carmichael (Downton Abbey), whom they both despise and love. Whilst she is away they plot and play-act increasingly violent scenarios in which they ritualistically kill her. The Maids is the translation from the French - Les Bonnes by the French dramatist Jean Genet. In director Jamie Lloyd’s production, the play seethes with the anger of the oppressed, and in an incisive psychological thriller skewers the class system and race politics. In particular, Uzo Abuda’s performance of Solange has been critically acclaimed as a performance of searing ferocity. Tickets from £15.
Painting with Light at Tate Britain 11th May - 25th September
Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, Painting with Light celebrates the dialogue between early photography and traditional painting. Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic, and British impressionist works by Whistler, Turner and others are shown together with the work of pioneering photographers, such as Julia Margaret Cameron, who inspired and were inspired by them. In a series of stunning juxtapositions we see how photographers and painters borrowed from each other and inspired each other to reach greater heights in their work. A must-see for those interested in the ways artists use tone, light and shade to create striking work during this nascent period for photography as an art form. Tickets from £14.50.
Oedipe at the Royal Opera House 23rd May - 8th June
This often neglected George Enescu opera, acclaimed as one of the finest works of the 20th century but sporadically performed since it’s 1936 debut, is revived by the Catalan theatre group La Fura dels Baus (Le Grand Macabre, ENO). The story is an adaptation of Sophocle’s Athenian tragedy Oedipus tyrannus, telling the tale of a man who inadvertently murders his father and marries his mother in an attempt to escape that same fate. The present staging takes place in a post-apocalyptic world rooted in mud and clay. The stripped bare production, monochrome in design but lavish in scale, allows the score to soar. Tickets from £17.
Frankenstein at The Royal Opera House 4th May - 27th May
This is Royal Ballet’s Artist in Residence Liam Scarlett’s first full-length work for the main stage. With music by Lowell Liebermann, this adaptation strips away the decades of horror movie associations with the gothic tale to take a fresh, sympathetic view of the relationships between Victor Frankenstein, his fiancée Elizabeth, and the Creature he created. In particular, Scarlett aims to do more than dismiss the Creature as the cardboard cut-out villain portrayed in past productions. In the three-act piece he will explore themes of betrayal, revenge, and acceptance, promising that by the end, we as the audience will be torn as to where our loyalties lie. Tickets from £27.
Towards the Mean: Sampling Britishness Today at Barbican now until 19th June
This interactive installation invites visitors to add their portrait and their voice to an evolving work. Designed by Marianne Holm Hansen in association with Seth Scott, and electronic musicians from the Guildhall School, this installation acts as a response to the Martin Parr exhibition Strange and Familiar (see review) which is already running at the Barbican. The installation aims to create a tangible representation of national identity in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and globalised world. The portraits and voices of the visitors will be manipulated into an evolving British ‘average’. This is an opportunity to not just view art, but become involved in the process of creating conceptual, thought-provoking artwork. Free.
Conceptual Art in Britain 1964–1979 at Tate Britain now until 29th August
The 1960s was a decade in which British artists began put ideas and issues at the centre of their work, rather than more traditional representative approaches. Many of the artists featured, including Michael Craig-Martin, Margaret Harrison, John Latham, Conrad Atkinson and Keith Arnatt, pushed the boundaries of what of what art could be; their innovation still informs the way we think of art. In particular, these artists were interested in what impact their art could have outside of exhibitions and studios, and whether artistic output could have an influence in how society viewed itself. The result was art that engaged in the politics and social reform of its time, from feminism to conflict in Northern Ireland. Tickets from £9.50.
Russia and the Arts at the National Portrait Gallery now until 26th June
The State Tretyakov Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery, both celebrating their 160th anniversaries this year, have staged this exhibition as part of a cultural exchange. The London exhibition showcases paintings of Russian artists, philosophers, composers, writers and actors spanning 1867-1914, highlighting an artistic golden age for the nation. Many of these paintings have never been seen outside Russia - thus this exhibition is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The 30 paintings on show include portraits of Tolstoy shown in the study of his Moscow home working on manuscripts, the composer Mussorgsky, and an introspective portrait of Dostoevsky. The exhibition also showcases the works of some of the best Russian artists including Vasily Perov and Ilya Repin. Tickets from £4.