Culture Vulture: our guide to the week’s entertainment (10-16 December 2022)

Highlights include Britain’s Communist Thread: Mistakes Were Made on Radio4, Hitler’s Jazz Band and ’71.

Saturday 10 December 2022

Piano Greats at the BBC 9.15pm BBC2

A collection of songs from the kings and queens of the keyboards, whose performances have captivated audiences over the decades and across a selection of the BBC’s best-loved music programmes.

From piano pioneers like Little Richard, Nina Simone and Ray Charles, who showed the world that the new sounds of pop and rock didn’t just revolve around guitars, right through to modern maestros like Elton John, Lady Gaga and the BBC’s own Jools Holland, these are the big names who got us tapping our feet by letting their fingers do the talking.

Profile: Oliver Dowden Radio 4 7pm

Oliver Dowden, the MP for Hertsmere, has worked closely with four Prime Ministers, David Cameron, Theresa May, Boris Johnson and now Rishi Sunak, one of his best friends in parliament. He’s made his mark quietly, mainly behind the scenes – but as Culture Secretary during the pandemic, he managed to secure extra funding to support the arts.

As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, some might argue Oliver Dowden is now the second most powerful person in government. He’s been given the key job of organising the government response to the current wave of strike action.

Sunday 11 December 2022

Britain’s Communist Thread: Mistakes Were Made Radio4 9.30pm

Historian Camilla Schofield explores a century-long thread of communism in Britain.

Like fascism, we often think of communism as alien – as an external threat – a threat to the British way of life. But what happens if we challenge that a little – and think about communism as a British story?

This episdoe explores the crises within the communist movement in the wake of the revelations contained in Nikita Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ in February 1956.

Includes extracts from an interview with Eric Hobsbawm by Michael Ignatieff, first broadcast on The Late Show, 24th Oct 1994, BBC Two.

Simon Schama Meets… from 10pm BBC4

Simon Schama speaks to three of the world’s most influential contemporary artists and activists: Ai Weiwei, Margaret Atwood and Nadya Tolokonnikova. In these conversations, Simon will uncover the personal motivations behind their art and activism, their sense of why art matters, and their unique perspectives on the state of the world today.

Sicario 2: Soldado (2018) Film4 9pm

The drug war on the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated as the cartels have begun trafficking terrorists across the US border. To fight the war, federal agent Matt Graver re-teams with the mercurial Alejandro. See our review here.

’71 (2014) 11.20pm Film4

In 1971, a young and disoriented British soldier is accidentally abandoned by his unit following a riot on the deadly streets of Belfast. See our review here

The Truth About Christmas Carols 11.30 BBC4

There could be nothing more sweet and sentimental than the sound of traditional carols performed by a velvet-voiced choir at Christmas. Or so you would think. Composer Howard Goodall uncovers the surprising and often secret history of the Christmas carol.

Far from being accepted as part of the celebrations of Jesus’s birth, over the centuries carols have been banned by both church and state. The carols we sing seem set in stone and yet they can have up to 400 regional variations. Individual carols have caused controversy – While Shepherds Watched had to be cleaned up by the Victorians for being too crude and there’s a suspicion that O Come All Ye Faithful was a call to 18th-century Jacobites to rebel.

The documentary celebrates the enduring power of the carol with a variety of performances from folk singer Bella Hardy to the choir of Truro Cathedral.

Monday 12 December 2022

Undercover: Sexual Harassment: The Truth 10pm

Reporter Ellie Flynn is secretly filmed as she pretends to be a drunk reveller on busy nights out across the UK. If and when men take her back to her hotel room, she reveals she’s completely sober to find out why they came back. She also goes on dating apps posing as an 18-yr-old and when men send her dick pics she secretly video calls them. With very moving testimony from schoolgirls and older women, alike, this film demonstrates a worrying spectrum of sexual harassment.

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Storyville: A Bunch of Amateurs 10pm

A bunch of amateur film-makers, with nothing left to lose, tackle one of Hollywood’s greatest musicals in order to save their beloved Bradford Film Club.

As its members grow old amid flickering memories and hardships, a handful of diehard members desperately cling to their dreams, and to each other, in this warm and funny look at shared artistic folly that speaks to the delusional dreamer in us all.

Wednesday 14 December 2022

Charles Dickens And The Invention Of Christmas 8pm BBC4

A look at how Charles Dickens created the idea of a traditional family Christmas through one of his best-known books, “A Christmas Carol”.

Hitler’s Jazz Band 9pm Sky Arts

Despite the ban on jazz throughout the Third Reich, the Nazis created Germany’s premier swing band and this documentary charts the fascinating story of Karl Schweidler and his band.

Thursday 15 December 2022

Jane Fonda In Five Acts 9pm Sky Arts

An intimate look at the life and work of the American actress, political activist, environmentalist, former fashion model and fitness tycoon Jane Fonda (left), featuring numerous interviews where she speaks candidly about her life. Fonda’s glittering career has seen her become the recipient of various accolades including two Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, seven Golden Globe Awards, a Primetime Emmy Award and the AFI Life Achievement Award.

Friday 16 December 2022

Sabotage in Auschwitz 8.35pm PBS America

In January 1945, less than two weeks before the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, four young women were hanged in public, accused of sabotaging the Nazi war machine.

This documentary tells how 30 Jewish women, working as forced labour in the Auschwitz-Birkenau munitions factory, risked their lives smuggling gunpowder out to be used in a large-scale rebellion. When the uprising commenced, the SS exacted a terrible revenge, brutally torturing four women who bravely claimed sole responsibility to save the lives of their friends.

Drawing on first-hand testimony and archive materials, this sobering account tells a moving story of feminine heroism, sacrifice, devotion and hope.

And at the theatre

Best of Enemies, Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, LONDON, WC2N 4AU

1968 – a year of protest that divided America. As two men fight to become the next President, all eyes are on the battle between two others: the cunningly conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and the iconoclastic liberal Gore Vidal. Beliefs are challenged and slurs slung as these political idols feud nightly in a new television format, debating the moral landscape of a shattered nation. Little do they know they’re about to open up a new frontier in American politics, and transform television news forever…

James Graham’s work for TV (Sherwood, Quiz, Brexit: The Uncivil War) and theatre (Ink, This House, Labour of Love) makes him one of the UK’s most exhilarating and celebrated writers and Best of Enemies reunites him with award-winning director, Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things, Wolf Hall Trilogy, This House). This Young Vic and Headlong transfer to the Noël Coward “rushes at the audience like a newshound after a story” (The Observer) and is “the most riveting play in London” (New York Times).

Till 18 February, 2023.

A Very Crypto Christmas (12-13 December 2022) at McNeills Bar, 106 Torrisdale Street, GLASGOW, G42 8RE

A Very Crypto Christmas is an anarchic blend of physical theatre, clowning and satire. A 40 minute show followed by christmas themed-karaoke.

Picture credit: The poster art can or could be obtained from the distributor., Fair use,


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