choice: the critics

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FILM Ryan Gilbey

Land and Freedom (right) Ken Loach's tough yet compassionate study of the Spanish Civil War ranks alongside his finest work. Unobtrusive, the camera drifts, almost unnoticed, through the action, while the man behind it refuses to spare his criticisms of both right and left.

To Die For Gus Van Sant almost compensates for the sins of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues with this satire on a TV-addicted nation. But the movie belongs to its cast: Nicole Kidman as the career woman who thinks husband Matt Dillon is out to curtail her ambitions, and Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck and Alison Folland as the teenagers she ropes into killing her spouse. It looks like a comedy, but don't be fooled.

The Wild Bunch Peckinpah's masterpiece gets an overdue revival in a new print with 10 minutes of restored footage. Admittedly, this 10 minutes has already turned up on TV, but no matter when you've got another chance to see one of the fiercest westerns of all time on the big screen.

THEATRE David Benedict

Party Tricks (right) There's a sex scandal brewing at the Board of Trade and Industry and a sleazebag tabloid editor (the tremendous Danny Webb) is desperate for a story. Sounds like real life, but in fact it's a new comedy by Crispin Whittell, directed by Martin Clunes. Nottingham Playhouse

Silver Face Sarah Blenkinsop has come up with a 3D advent calendar of a set for David Farr's striking production of this virtually unknown 1922 barbarous comedy of wickedness, which is full of fun and theatrical thrills. Gate Theatre, London

Waiting for Stoppard A profound and utterly serious dramatic inquiry by the Independent's very own Miles Kington who posits important questions like "If Dr Miriam Stoppard was his wife for so long, why wasn't he the healthiest man in Britain, and if not, why not?" Southwark Playhouse, London


Knights (right) The myth and reality of the age of chivalry is examined in this enterprising exhibition. Of particular interest are paintings by the Arthur-fixated Pre-Raphaelites and tapestries by Burne-Jones. Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Africa, The Art of a Continent This, the pivotal show of the Africa 95 season, has survived all the accusations of political in-fighting and cultural misappropriations, to emerge looking good. Curator, Tom Phillips, must be congratulated for his crash course from 27,000 BC onwards. Royal Academy, London

Art and Power A beautifully-designed, if somewhat over-curated exhibition, which seeks to lay bare the cultural arrogance of the Totalitarian nations - Germany, Italy and Russia - during the seminal years between 1930 and 1945. Particularly sobering are the contrasts between the art driven underground and the aesthetic banality of the official. Hayward Gallery, London

COMEDY James Rampton

Jimeoin This likeable rambler has gone in the opposite direction to Dame Edna. Born in Northern Ireland, he has made it big in Australia, with a top-rated TV show of his own down under. Cochrane Theatre, London, WC1 (0171 242 7040) tonight to 18 Nov

John Shuttleworth Graham Fellows, who in a previous life gave the world the marvellous one-hit wonder Jilted John, takes on the role of the world's funniest Yamaha organ-player. Bloomsbury Theatre, London WC1 (0171-388 8822) 7-11 Nov

Funny Black Women on the Edge

Angie Le Mar, recently to be seen on Channel 4's Get Up Stand Up, leads us through the viscissitudes of life being black, female and British. Theatre Royal Stratford East, London E15 (0181-534 0310) 8-25 Nov

CLUBS James Style

The Rocket, that dingy North London dive has hosted some great nights, remember Shaka and Megadog? Well it's dingy no more - yes, the student venue from hell has just had a million quid spent on it and reopens this weekend. They have kept the beautiful Wedgwood ceiling and added a new floor and two new bars. And who better to open it than Sign of the Times?

166-220 Holloway Rd, London N7 (0171-700 2421) Sat 10pm-6am, pounds 12

Megadog start a nationwide tour this week as the dogs collide with the Sabres to produce The Sabre Tooth Dog Tour. Loads of PAs including all the Sabrettes' new signings and feature DJs like Charlie Hall from the Drum Club and Carl Cox. The format varies from venue to venue but essentially there is the "dog kennel" (the main room) and the "analog hell room". 8 Nov Brighton Corn Exchange; 9 Nov Reading University

The north of England has recently been a hotbed for house music, so it's nice to see an R'n'B club thriving in Manchester. Yellow at the Boardwalk takes you back to those rare groove classics. Little Peter St (0161-228 3555) Tonight 9.30pm-2am

LITERATURE Dominic Cavendish

The flourishing Aldeburgh Poetry Festival packs 20 poets into a weekend under the slightly gratuitous umbrella of "Risks". There's Adrian Mitchell, the excellent Tom Leonard and Ian Duhig, and the young-and-upcoming Deryn Rees-Jones (right). Jubilee Hall (01728 453543) to Sun

It is a sad irony that the UK Year of Literature and Writing's mini- fest Prose, Peace and Politics to mark the Unesco Year of Tolerance should coincide with the sentencing to death of Ken Saro-Wiwa by a Nigerian court for protesting about the treatment of the Ogoni people. Michael Foot opens (Tuesday) by talking about the relationship between politics and writing over the last 50 years. Ty Llen, Swansea (01792 652211) 7-24 Nov

All the fun of the Booker Prize is coming to a bookshop near you. Three of the authors, Pat Barker, Justin Cartwright and Tim Winton will be giving readings. Almeida, London N1 (0171-359 4404) Sun 5pm; Waterstone's, London, NW3 (0171-794 1098) Mon 7pm; Hatchard's Piccadilly, London W1 (0171-439 9921) Tue 12.30pm