The Diary: Alex Wheatle; The Rivals; Go BZRK; Frieze Art Fair; Amy Winehouse
Arifa Akbar is literary editor of The Independent and i newspapers. She has worked at The Independent since 2001 as a news reporter and arts correspondent before joining the books desk in 2009. She was a judge for the Orwell Prize for books 2013, and the Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, and is currently judging the Aesthetica Magazine new writing prize.
Friday 30 September 2011
The bestselling author Alex Wheatle reveals that it was during a short spell in prison in the 1980s that he had a life-changing encounter that set him on his creative path. He picked up a book in the prison library which redirected the course of his life: "I first came across The Black Jacobins by [the Afro-Trinidadian writer] C L R James in prison and that turned my life around. It made me realise that even though my life was crap, black people in history had lived a lot worse. It also made me think, 'maybe I can contribute'," he says. Staying true to his word, he wrote his bestselling debut novel, Brixton Rock, not long after. Wheatle is marking the 30th anniversary of the Brixton riots with a stage play that will dramatise his life and times from troubled teenager to sound system DJ and then to acclaimed author (he has just published his latest novel, Brenton Brown). The play, Uprising, to open at the Albany Theatre at Deptford on 11 October, takes audiences on a personal journey through Britain in the 1980s, from the brutality of the children's homes that Wheatle passed through as a child to the Brixton riots and the prison cell he shared with a Rasta cellmate.
A modern-day remake of a Sheridan 1775 comedy, The Rivals, starring Imelda Staunton, Joseph Fiennes and Albert Finney, has come unstuck after attracting only half its financing. The project has hit a halt, a disappointed source has revealed, until further funds roll in. Lets hope financiers can dig deep into their recession-hit pockets to give the eternally entertaining Mrs Malaprop an airing.
From blog to book
Following the success of Pottermore – the online-enhanced Harry Potter experience – an entertainment studio is doing it the other way around by launching the online enhancement before a new series of mystery adventure books is even published. The series is written by the bestselling author Michael Grant for young adults, and the online activity offers a sort of prequel to the book. The studio has created a "transmedia experience" that acquaints readers with plotlines and characters. The online experience has been labelled Go BZRK and includes character blogs, interactive games, online videos and mobile apps, culminating with BZRK the book at the end of it all in February 2012. Sounds BZRK.
The fine art of causing outrage
Frieze mania has begun. For attention-seeking art during the annual week of contemporary art in London, which always comes with its fair share of art stunts (remember the year the Chapman brothers scribbled all over bank notes?), it might be hard to beat the Iranian artist Reza Aramesh's idea to create a set of Catholic-style icons based on figures of Muslim captives, which he will exhibit in a former church in Marylebone. The Muslim subjects have been taken from photography featuring captives in conflict zones, mostly in the Middle East, and they appear largely in boxer shorts or jeans. The figurines are made by a family workshop in Italy that has been producing religious statuary for generations. They are infused with an air of old Catholic saints, I'm told, in order to look like "modern-day Christs or St Sebastiens". It's hard to anticipate who the work will offend more: Muslims or Christians.
Pop art and myth
Amy Winehouse will be the subject of an exhibition by the pop artist Gerald Laing, who painted her in 2008 at the peak of her troubled celebrity. He has captured her flamboyantly dressed and kissing her then husband Blake Fielder-Civil. The complete collection of paintings and drawings goes on display at Thomas Gibson Fine Art in London's Mayfair from 11 October, with a percentage of all sales donated to the Winehouse rehabilitation project launched by her father, Mitch. "My work is concerned with the myth, and portrays her as she appeared to us, the public, via the media," says Laing. "Now that the drama has ended, and all is quiet, I hope it will be seen as a tribute from one artist to another."
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