Coming soon in 2014: A look at the year ahead in arts

A guide to the arts year ahead – which promises dastardly bankers, divine fashions and dead parrots among countless other delights

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The Independent Culture



‘The Wolf of Wall Street’

After the lukewarm response to his Jay Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio’s back in the 21st century, teaming up with his old buddy, Martin Scorsese, and chucking on a dodgy double-breasted suit to play corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort. A movie that’s set to have it all: sex, scandal, and a rollerskating chimpanzee. Out 17 Jan


After the “orgasm” posters, who isn’t gasping to see Lars von Trier’s latest, split into two volumes? Charlotte Gainsbourg and newcomer Stacy Martin lead an eclectic all-star cast as they play a beautiful woman through various stages of her erotic history. Will it be an exploitation romp masquerading as art, or a liberating exploration of female sexuality? Or both of those things and more? ‘Nymphomaniac Volume One’ out 7 Mar and ‘Volume Two’ out 14 Mar

‘Starred Up’

David Mackenzie’s gritty prison drama led the way with eight nominations at the British Independent Film Awards. Jack “the Lad” O’Connell, best known for This Is England and Skins, plays the troubled and violent Erik, who is “starred up”, as the lingo goes, when he is transferred from a young offender’s institution to an adult jail. There he encounters his father, also behind bars, and the two wrestle – both literally and figuratively – with their new relationship. Out 21 Mar

‘Jupiter Ascending’

The Wachowskis – the sibling duo behind mind-boggling sci-fi classic The Matrix – are returning to the summer blockbuster market. Mila Kunis leads the cast as Jupiter Jones, a down-on-her-luck cleaner stuck in the daily grind until she realises that the universe has marked her out for greatness, with support from Channing Tatum as a genetically engineered military fighter, and Sean Bean, apparently doing a turn as a Hans Solo type. Out 18 July

Visual art

‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs’

Tate Modern’s blockbuster exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs


A survey of the famous Fauvist’s final and most widely adored period, when, after ill health stopped him painting, he began cutting into painted paper and arranging the shapes together. Choice among more than 120 of the dramatically large works, many shown together for the first time, will be the serene Blue Nudes series. Tate Modern,  17 Apr to 7 Sep (

‘The Glamour of Italian Fashion’

Fashionistas should make a beeline for this ravishing retrospective of Italian style from 1945 to the present day (left). All the big names will be on show, from Valentino and Prada to Gucci and Pucci, as the exhibition charts how female film stars working on location there in the 1950s and 1960s were influenced by the country’s designers, as, in turn, were women around the world. Victoria and Albert Museum,  5 Apr to 27 July (

‘Saddam is Here’, by Jamal Penjweny

Here’s a none-more-bracing exhibition for the new year: Penjweny’s photo series was acclaimed when it featured in the Iraq Pavilion at last year’s Venice Biennale, and now the man who curated the pavilion, Jonathan Watkins of Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery, brings it to the UK. Showing Iraqi people in familiar surroundings, each holding a life-size picture of Saddam Hussein’s face in front of their own, it captures, as the artist himself has said, “human beings with a shared history of fear”. Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 19 Feb to 21 Apr (

‘Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined’

The Royal Academy goes trendily “immersive” with this ambitious new show for which seven award-winning architects from around the world have been invited to transform the space of its main galleries in mind-bending ways. Expect to be confronted by the question of how architecture affects mood, thoughts and actions – and a desire to climb the walls.  25 Jan to 6 Apr (


Pull Out All the Stops Festival

An entire festival celebrating the restoration of an organ? It might sound indulgent, but the Royal Festival Hall’s is no ordinary set of pipes. Installed in 1954 as part of the Festival of Britain, its Neo-classical design gave rise to a new school of organ building, and it has now been restored to its former glory after six years out of action. So, why not celebrate along with Peter Maxwell Davies, artist-musician Martin Creed, and The Divine Comedy’s Neil Hannon, who have all created new works for the mighty instrument? 18 Mar to 7 June (

‘Don Giovanni’: Royal Opera House

Covent Garden’s early-year biggie is a new staging of Mozart’s tragicomedy by the venue’s Director of Opera, Kasper Holten. The dashing Mariusz Kwiecien steps into the title role following critically acclaimed turns as the great lothario all over the world. Another enticing prospect is the visuals of Es Devlin, who, opera aside, has produced designs for everything from the London Olympics Closing Ceremony to Lady Gaga tours and the new American Psycho musical. 1 to 24 Feb (

Birtwistle at 80

As Harrison Birtwistle, the man known as England’s greatest living composer, enters his ninth decade, the Barbican pays tribute with a series of events. Highlights include performances of his opera Gawain, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the geologically inspired Earth Dances, with the London Symphony Orchestra – while for anyone who fancies going into greater depth, free study afternoons are available to event ticket-holders. The series begins on 16 May (


Few new operas are as hotly anticipated as English National Opera’s take on Sophocles’s three Theban plays, centring on the reign of one familially confused monarch called Oedipus. The reason for the buzz? It’s a collaboration between Julian Anderson, the London Philharmonic’s resident composer, and revered Irish playwright Frank McGuinness. London Coliseum, 3 May to 3 June (


Nine Inch Nails

Trent Reznor may be the only original member left but there are plenty of reasons to be excited by the Nails’ first tour in five years. Notably that last year’s Hesitation Marks comeback album was brilliant, and that Reznor has assembled a swat team of industrial rockers to replace his previous bandmates, including Eric Avery of Jane’s Addiction, Adrian Belew of King Crimson, and Josh Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv. UK dates 18 to 25 May (

Röyksopp and Robyn

Oh how we like our Scandi-pop, and oh, if two of its greatest exponents aren’t teaming up for a European tour next year, after their successful collaboration on single “The Girl and the Robot” in 2009. Thus far, the only UK date announced is the Latitude festival in July, but we’re almost certain there will be more to come. And with the Röyksopp boys’ penchant for wacky onstage outfits, and peroxide diva Robyn’s high-octane stage presence, you can expect a knockout show. Latitude 17 to 20 June, other UK tour dates TBC (

Backstreet Boys/All Saints

Backstreet’s Back! No, really, they are! Sorry, that was too good to resist … but yes, the Nineties heartthrobs are touring with their new album, In a World Like This, and who better to support them than the girls who brought combat trousers into fashion? A whole generation of formerly young people will gaze on as they remember gazing up at a poster of Nick Carter while trying to master the Top of the Pops dance moves to “Never Ever”: that’s to say it will be bliss. 26 Mar to 5 Apr (

Lily Allen

Lily Allen


With her controversial Robin Thicke-mocking videos and John Lewis-ad covers, Allen came back with a bang in 2013. But given her stage charisma, what we’re really waiting for is her re-entry into the live arena. She has already confirmed for Glastonbury, and expect her to announce more summer and autumn touring plans early in the New Year. Glastonbury 25 to 29 June (


‘King Lear’

It’s the biggest of the Shakespearean big guns, at a National Theatre that’s on a roll; it’s directed by Sam Mendes, and stars Simon Russell Beale. The supporting cast isn’t too shabby either: Anna Maxwell Martin, Tom Brooke and Kate Fleetwood. So, yeah, this is a hot ticket. It’s day tickets only at the moment, but check again in February when another batch go on sale.  14 Jan to 25 Mar, Olivier Theatre, London (


Virginia Woolf’s Orlando is a century-spanning, country-hopping, gender-bending odyssey of a novel. Not easy to adapt for the stage, then, but they’ve surely found the right woman for the job: Sarah Ruhl, whose In the Next Room (aka The Vibrator Play), now at the St James Theatre in London, shows her fearless and funny bent for gender politics. Suranne Jones (Coronation Street, Scott & Bailey) takes the title role. 20 Feb to 22 Mar, Royal Exchange, Manchester (

‘Shakespeare in Love’

Continuing the West End’s bankable screen-to-stage trend is this theatrical adaptation of the soppily enjoyable 1998 movie, itself a love letter to Elizabethan theatre. Tom Stoppard’s script is adapted by Lee Hall – who scripted Billy Elliot on screen and stage – and what with its large cast and live music, it is likely to be quite the theatrical event. From July, Noel Coward Theatre, London (

‘The Cherry Orchard’

Playwright Simon Stephens’ new translations for the Young Vic – of A Doll’s House and I Am the Wind – have been cracking, so we predict great things for his Chekhov in the autumn, especially given that Katie Mitchell is directing. Her radical reading of The Seagull divided critics, but this pair have collaborated fruitfully before, on Wastwater and The Trial of Ubu Roi. And it’s fun to have the rug pulled out from under your comfy seat once in a while. 10 Oct to 29 Nov, Young Vic, London (



Peep Show and Fresh Meat creators Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong are bankable and brill, and, just in case you weren’t already going to watch their new series, they’ve got Danny bloomin’ Boyle directing. Babylon is a comedy drama set within a London police force that’s struggling with its image and the politics of modern policing. Brit Marling brings a touch of Hollywood to proceedings as an American social media guru, but the home-grown cast is pretty great too. Channel 4, Feb

‘The Smoke’

Jamie Bamber in Sky 1’s The Smoke (Des Wylie/Sky 1)


Another British public service comes under the spotlight in this eight-part fire brigade drama which follows the struggles of a firefighter injured on the job. Jamie Bamber (Battlestar Galactica) stars, with Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) as his wife. Best of all, playwright Lucy Kirkwood – whose Chimerica won Evening Standard Best Play this year – is the wordsmith. Her script promises to be both wittily irreverent and gripping in its exploration of modern masculinity in a world where heroism is part of the job. Sky1, Feb

‘Cucumber’ &‘Banana’

Russell T Davies is back with a new gay drama and, like his trailblazing Queer as Folk, it’s set in Manchester. Ever the innovator, Davies has created two interlinked series: Cucumber follows two fortysomethings over eight hour-long episodes, while Banana – on E4 – focuses on the younger characters on the edges of Cucumber, in eight 30-minute shows. There’s also an online strand called Tofu encouraging viewers to share their sexual experiences: oh, and if you’re wondering, the titles are category names from a study of men’s arousal, referring to different stages of, er, solidity. Channel 4/E4, late 2014

‘Turks & Caicos’ & ‘Salting the Battlefield’

The ever-watchable Bill Nighy reprises his MI5 spy Johnny Worricker in the last two parts of David Hare’s The Worricker Trilogy, following 2011’s Page Eight. Worricker has walked out on his MI5 job – but he’s hardly shy and retiring, more spy on the run. A starry, international cast includes Christopher Walken, Winona Ryder, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Ewen Bremner. BBC2, late 2014


The New Wave: London residency

These once-a-month nights from alternative-comedy promoters The Invisible Dot are one of the best showcases of new talent around. So, get ahead of the curve and enjoy a varied line-up of those likely to be garlanded in 2014, including John Kearns, Harriet Kemsley, Mat Ewins, Joseph Morpurgo and Natasia Demetriou. 16 Jan, 17 Feb & 13 Mar, The Invisible Dot, London (

Leicester Comedy Festival

With more than 600 events, this festival now rivals Edinburgh, pulling in big names, as well as many smaller gigs. Book for the likes of Russell Kane, Sean Hughes, Shappi Khorsandi and Chris Ramsey, rising stars Aisling Bea, Chris Martin, Ivo Graham and Iain Stirling – or take a punt on events such as Comedy in the Dark, the UK Pun Championships, or Comedy Blind Date. 7 to 23 Feb, various venues, Leicester

Tim Key – Single White Slut

Comic poet Tim Key


Comedy-poet, bath-lover, Alan Partridge chum and brilliant Independent columnist Tim Key creates shows that appear gently whimsical but are very funny. Big fans may have seen a bit of this show during his Edinburgh Work-in-Slutgress run – but Single White Slut promises new poems, new awkward audience interactions and new chucklesome musings on topics as diverse as love, Hollywood and owls. 25 Feb to 8 Mar, Soho Theatre, London

‘Monty Python Live’

We still love Eric, John, Michael and the Terrys, and this is a long-wished-for chance to see their classic sketches in the flesh. Tickets for the 10 announced dates are all sold out, but there’s a chance that there are more to come, and we bet the show will tour too: Monty Python may be a dead parrot, but it’s clearly one still worth flogging. 1 to 20 July, 02 Arena, London, (


‘Boxe Boxe’

This new work from the French outfit Compagnie Kafig fuses dance and boxing for a show with real punch. Mourad Merzouki’s choreography combines street and modern dance with martial arts moves to celebrate the pageantry of the boxing ring and the art of the fight. Live music is provided by the Debussy String Quartet playing Schubert, Ravel, Philip Glass and Glenn Miller. The tour begins in Milton Keynes then visits Newcastle, Edinburgh, Plymouth, Salford, Leicester, Southampton and Brighton. Tour 25 Mar to 18 Apr (


The tale is best known for Ken Loach’s 1969 film. But director/choreographer Jonathan Watkins has returned to the source: Barry Hines’s novel, A Kestrel for a Knave, about a working-class boy in Barnsley who finds solace in a kestrel that he tames. Eight professional dancers will be working with 20 local youngsters in a production which draws on dance, puppetry and physical theatre. 27 Mar to 5 Apr, Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (

‘The Winter’s Tale’

A new full-length work from the world’s most in-demand ballet choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, adapting Shakespeare’s late play, which features corrosive jealousy, a shipwreck, a sheep-shearing festival, living statues and an “exit, pursued by a bear”. So there’s plenty for this most inventive of dance-makers to have fun with; Wheeldon  has again teamed up with the feted designer Bob Crowley and hot composer Joby Talbot. 10 Apr to 8 May, Royal Opera House (

‘Lest We Forget’

Even dance isn’t immune to the centenary of the First World War. This composite commission from English National Ballet – performing at the Barbican for the first time – promises to be a moving and mesmerising tribute. Cream of current British choreographers Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant (both working with classical ballet for the first time) and Liam Scarlett all contribute new works, and the evening is rounded off  with a revival of ENB’s Firebird, choreographed by just-outta-school George Williamson. 2 to 12 Apr, Barbican, London (