Critics' choice: Goodness gracious me - they're on the road

Before Goodness Gracious Me was a huge hit on Radio 4 and BBC2, Asian comedy was widely perceived as a contradiction in terms. "People used to think Asians weren't funny," sighs Anil Gupta, the producer of the acclaimed Asian sketch show and director of the spin-off stage production which makes its debut this week. "They'd say, 'black people can be funny - look at Lenny Henry - but where are the Asian comedians?' I remember sitting in one meeting at the BBC and someone said, 'we never see Chinese comedians - maybe they're not funny'. I thought, 'what? You've just written off a nation of a billion people'." Of course, Goodness Gracious Me - performed by Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhasker, Kulvinder Ghir and Nina Wadia (above) - has helped explode these stereotypes. It successfully mocks both white British (with such memorable sketches as the drunken Indian yobs "going for an English" after a booze-up and insulting the waiters) and the Asians (in characters such as the Kapoors, the wannabe middle-class family who are determined to be more English than the English and demand that their name by pronounced "Cooper"). These kind of figures should flourish in the live arena. But why has it taken so long for this rich vein of humour to be tapped? "My pet theory is that it's the second generation coming of age," says Gupta. "Our parents' generation came over in the 1960s, and the immigrant mentality was to keep their heads down and work hard. The second generation are luckier; we are integrated, we have been born here. Our generation feel more confident of our identity. I don't have a problem with my duality, and I don't want to be an accountant. Writing jokes wasn't an option before - although now all we do is write jokes about accountants, so perhaps we haven't escaped yet." (Goodness Gracious Me UK Tour: Leicester De Montfort Hall (0116 233 3111), Fri and Sat; York Barbican (01904 656688), Sun 21 Feb; and touring to 19 Mar. Information hotline: 0891 455 484.) JAMES RAMPTON

RECOMMENDED

ART

Monet in the 20th Century. The late work by the impressionist master is revealed as his most valuable contribution to art. RA, W1 (0171 413 1717), to 18 Apr. Sun-Thurs 9-6, Fri & Sat 9-10.

Andreas Gursky. Giant post-industrial photographs of human existence on the brink of anonymity. Serpentine, W2 (0171 298 1515), to 7 Mar. Daily 10-6.

New Neurotic Realism. Work by five disparate artists intent on revising artistic production. Saatchi Gallery, NW8 (0171 642 8299), to 4 Apr. Thurs- Sun 12-6.

Portraits by Ingres. Impeccable snapshots by the 19th-century master of line. National, WC2 (0171 839 3321), to 25 Apr. Mon-Sun 10-6, Wed 10- 9.

Steve McQueen. Recent films, sculpture and photography by a young artist tipped for next year's Turner Prize. ICA, SW1 (0171 930 3647), to 21 Mar. Mon-Sat 12-7.30. CHARLOTTE MULLINS

BOOKS

The Snakebite Survivor's Club by Jeremy Seal (Picador, pounds 16.99). Travelogue as aversion therapy. See review, page 10. MATTHEW J REISZ

The Houdini Girl by Martyn Bedford (Viking, pounds 15.99). A magician grieves the death of his girlfriend. See review, page 11. JOE COGAN

Roger Fishbite by Emily Prager (Chatto, pounds 10). Lolita, transposed to the TV-glutted 1990s; a novel that both laments and celebrates little girls. BARBARA TRAPIDO

Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown, pounds 19.99). Long-awaited second volume shows us an Elvis not less weird but more human. Guralnick has an understanding of a character whose impulses were often in conflict. RICHARD WILLIAMS

Serendipities by Umberto Eco (Weidenfeld, pounds 12.99). Eco continues his fascination with the power of the erroneous and the force of falsity. MALCOLM BRADBURY

CINEMA

Bulworth (18). Warren Beatty (also co-writer, producer, director) plays a Democrat Senator having a nervous breakdown at the crux of his campaign. He hires a hitman to do away with himself after the weekend and goes to meet his public, speaking the horrible truth in rap. The result is barmy, and brilliantly furious. Odeon Ken (0870 505 0007) 7.00; Virgins Chelsea (0870 9700710) 6.15, Haymkt (0870 9070712) 1.00 3.30; Warner (0171 437 4343) 1.45 6.45 9.15. (P)

Hilary and Jackie (15). Based on the controversial memoir A Genius in the Family, this shows the life and slow death of the cellist Jacqueline du Pre through the eyes of her sister, Hilary. Although quite troubling, the film is worth seeing for the Oscar-nominated performance from Emily Watson. Chelsea (0171 351 3742) 1.10 3.40 6.10 8.40; Curzon Soho (0171 734 2255) 4.00 6.30 9.00; Odeon Swiss Cott (0870 505 0007) 4.00. (P)

Little Voice (15). Jane Horrocks recreates the celebrated stage role written for her by Jim Cartwright. Although Mark Herman's adaptation of the poetic play about a bullied teenager with an exceptional gift for vocal mimicry is sometimes clumsy, Michael Caine's turn as a tawdry agent won him a Golden Globe. ABC Tott Ct Rd (0870 9020414) 1.30 3.55 7.05; Greenwich (0181 293 0101) 2.15; Odeons Camden (0870 5050007) 11.50 2.00 4.15 6.35, Ken (0870 5050007) 1.50 4.25 9.45, Swiss Cott (0870 5050007) 8.50, WE (0870 5050007) 1.55 4.10 6.20 8.55;Virgin Fulham (0870 9070711) 1.30 3.40 6.30 8.40; Whiteleys (0990 888990) 6.40 9.20. (P)

Hideous Kinky (15). Based on Esther Freud's autobiographical novel. Kate Winslet plays a young Mum taking her daughters around Morocco in the 1970s in search of enlightenment and excitement. Heartfelt and beautifully performed. Clap Pic Hse (0171 498 3323) 4.45 7.00 9.10; Curzons Minema (0171 369 1723) 3.00 5.00 7.00 9.00, Soho (0171 734 2255) 4.15 6.45 9.00;Odeon Swiss Cott (0870 5050007) 1.15 3.55 6.15 8.45; Renoir (0171 837 8402) 2.20 4.30 6.40 8.55; Richmond (0181 332 0030) 2.00 4.15 6.30 8.45; Ritzy (0171 733 2229) 4.50 7.05; Tricycle (0171 328 1000) 6.30 8.45; Screen Baker St (0171 935 2772) 4.40 6.50; Virgin Fulham (0870 9070771) 7.10 9.20; Whiteleys (0990 888990) 1.50 4.10 6.50 9.10. (P)

Shakespeare in Love (18). Joseph Fiennes plays William Shakespeare, a relatively new playwright on the scene in 16th-century London, and Gwyneth Paltrow his Golden Globe-winningmuse. It has a tight script, hot performances and 13 Oscar nominations. ABC Tott Ct Rd (0870 902 0414) 1.10 3.45 6.30 9.25; Barbican (0171 638 8891) 3.00 8.40; Clap Pic Hse (0171 498 3323) 1.45 4.14 6.45 9.20; Empire (0990 888990) 12.15 3.00 5.50 8.45; Greenwich (0181 293 0101) 3.50 6.30 9.10; Coronet (0171 727 6705) 2.45 5.45 8.30; Odeons Camden (0870 5050007) 12.10 2.50 5.45 8.25, Ken (0870 5050007) 12.10 3.10 6.10 9.10, Marble Arch (0870 5050007) 12.35 3.25 6.15 9.15, Swiss Cott (0870 5050007) 12.20 3.05 5.50 8.35; Ritzy (0171 733 2229) 2.00 4.25 6.50; Screen/Green (0171 226 3520) 3.35 6.20 9.00; Virgins Fulham (0870 907 0711) 1.00 3.30 6.10 9.10 Troc (0870 9070716) 12.00 2.30 5.10 7.50; Whiteleys (0990 888990) 12.45 3.20 6.15 9.00. (P) ANTONIA QUIRKE

CDs

Ben Lee: Breathing Tornadoes (Grand Royal). The third album from the precociously talented 20-year-old contains funky, off-kilter art pop, with a keyboard-heavy, free-and-easy approach to instrumentation redolent of REM's Up. If this album doesn't make him a huge star, the next one will. NICHOLAS BARBER

Misha Alperin: First Impressions (ECM). A beautiful album from an incredible talent. Recorded at Oslo's Rainbow Studio, it's a homage to the great tradition of ECM recordings of Northern European jazz. PHIL JOHNSON

John Adams: I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I saw the Sky (Nonesuch). Newsreel opera based on the 1994 LA earthquake which marries minimalist repetition with the easy tunefulness of pop and rock. Attractive in its glancing, American feelgood way, and fun. For a tragedy. MICHAEL WHITE

dANCE

Cruel Garden. Rambert Dance Co in a terrific dance and music spectacle on the life and death of the Spanish poet Lorca. Woking New Victoria (01483 761144), Tues-Thurs.

The Lost Child. Inspired physical theatre from the David Glass Ensemble, based on worldwide research into the tragedy of missing children. New Tabernacle, W11 (0171 565 7800), Mon & Tues; Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion (011424 787949), Thurs; Birmingham MAC (0121 440 3838), Fri & Sat.

Stomp. See it and hear it or you won't believe it: a fabulous dance- percussion show using scrapyard junk and one hell of a sense of rhythm. Edinburgh Festival Theatre (0131 529 6000), Tues-Sat. JENNY GILBERT

THEATRE

Talk of the City. Stephen Poliakoff's remarkably apposite depiction of Broadcasting House in the late-1930s is a delicious mix of showbiz brio, BBC professionalism, theatrical artifice, period detail and mystery. Young Vic, SE1 (0171 928 6363), to 27 Mar. Mon-Sat 7.00. M: Thurs & Sat 2.00.

Copenhagen. Michael Frayn's play, which turns nuclear physics during the Second World War into a fascinating detective story, won the 1998 IoS Critics Award. Duchess, WC2 (0171 494 5075), to 7 Aug. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Thurs & Sat 2.30.

Oklahoma! Trevor Nunn's answer to Guys and Dolls transfers to the West End. Nominated for nine Olivier awards, it's three and a quarter hours of sheer pleasure. Lyceum, WC2 (0870 6063446), to 26 Jun. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Wed & Sat 2.30.

The Weir. Conor McPherson's anecdotal play, set in a small bar in the west of Ireland, has some of the best ensemble acting in London. Royal Court Downstairs, WC2 (0171 565 5000), to Jun. Mon-Sat 7.30. M: Wed & Sat 3.30. ROBERT BUTLER

The Winter's Tale. Antony Sher excels as Leontes in Gregory Doran's complex and stylish production. Stratford RST (01789 295 623), in rep to 4 Mar. Mon & Fri 7.30. MAEVE WALSH

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