Arts and Entertainment

Sally Wainwright's hit BBC drama about Celia and Alan will be back in late 2014

Throwing the gag out with the bathwater

the week on television

If the SS cap fits

Why are British actors always being asked to play Nazis? And why do they look so good in the bad guys' clothes? Maybe because the Nazis themselves were so very theatrical. By Jasper Rees

Theatre Uncle Vanya Chichester Festival Theatre

There's a story that one of our greatest actors was once wooed to appear in a production of Uncle Vanya but that he took great offence (and indeed took off) when he realised that it was Astrov he was being invited to play. "That is not the name on the title page," he majestically reminded the director.

The Pulpit, Shrewsbury Abbey, Shropshire

site unseen

TELEVISION & RADIO: review

Boxing Night was, for no apparent reason, medieval mystery night. On BBC2, Colin Firth swapped Darcy's jodhpurs for a smock and a fancy cod-piece to do battle for truth, justice and porcine rights in 14th-century France in The Hour of the Pig (BBC2). Meanwhile, a alrge part of the ITV schedules was consumed by a feature length version of Cadfael, the adventures of Derek Jacobi's 12th-century monk with the 20th-century forensic skills. The kind of night, you might think, when charades seem like a good idea.

2 for 1 Audio Books offer with the The Independent

In a hi-tech, fast-paced world simple pleasures can often be the most satisfying. And few pleasures are more simple or more satisfying than listening to a good story well told.

Brother Cadfael's creator dies aged 82

THE bestselling writer Ellis Peters, who created the Brother Cadfael medieval mystery novels, died yesterday aged 82 after suffering a stroke.

The knight of a thousand stars

Olivier did it. Garrick did it. And now Jacobi's doing it. But do actors make good managers? Georgina Brown puts the question to Sir Derek, Chichester Festival Theatre's new artistic director, and his minder, the West End producer Duncan Weldon

RADIO / Gielgud at 90: still every inch a king

SIR PETER HALL is not a natural radio actor. He had clearly spent anxious hours locked in the bathroom before emerging to read his timorous challenge at the end of King Lear, but he still hadn't cleared it with his throat. Luckily, the Herald is not a central role, but in this Renaissance / R3 production the cast so bristles with once and future knights and dames that a theatrical title is a passport to a moment of recording history - and who cares if the Herald is audibly strangled by his nerves. Other great names went into compensatory overdrive. To hear Derek Jacobi and Denis Quilley's extravagantly gallic double act as France and Burgundy was to relive the maddest moments of 'Allo, 'Allo. Jacobi, apparently, was a last-minute replacement for Gerard Depardieu, which might explain his sudden burst of elan. I never felt sorrier for Cordelia.

THEATRE / Helen Mirren, comedy star: I cannot think what has prompted Richard Eyre to install this piece in his main house

FOR THE first major revival of Turgenev's A Month in the Country in 20 years, Triumph Productions appear to have laid on an old-fashioned West End treat. The cast-list reads like a Black Magic chart. No less succulent is the design (by Hayden Griffin, Andy Phillips, and Deirdre Clancy) with its succession of poetically lit birchwood landscapes and dresses of ever- increasing splendour. Here is the serio-comic insight of Chekhov with no ominous echoes from the outside world. No one is going to chop those trees down just yet.

Whitehall keeps grip on 'classless' honours

THOUSANDS of honours nominations from private individuals under John Major's 'classless' system have produced just 70 awards in today's 970-strong New Year list.

Letter: Savagery and morality in the 'Iliad'

Sir: Robert Winder's review of the Penguin Classics audio tape of the Iliad ('Greeks, Trojans and abridgement too far', 10 December) is right about its quality, and the strength of Derek Jacobi's reading. But he is surely wrong in his own account of the great poem.

THEATRE / Too full of the milk of human kindness: Adrian Noble's new production of Macbeth focuses on the sensitivity of the villain. But is Derek Jacobi too good to be true?

Productions of Macbeth come with all manner of things up their kilts - if putting it like that doesn't distort the point that this is the Shakespeare tragedy that seems to translate most readily to different cultures. In recent years, we've been treated over here to everything from a Peking Opera Macbeth, in which the hero tumbled deathwards via a series of spectacular backward somersaults, to a samurai version which positioned the tragedy under a forlornly beautiful shower of cherry blossom petals, the Japanese symbol of both the defectiveness of appearances and human futility.

ARTS / Show People: Ian MacNeil: The joy of sets

FOR A designer, Ian MacNeil is sceptical about the importance of looks: 'Aesthetics are of limited interest, ultimately: style is not particularly interesting.' He also says a low boredom threshold is something common to 'theatre people'; and perhaps the combination of these two things is the key to his success.

BOOK REVIEW / Greeks, Trojans and abridgement too far: 'The Iliad' - Homer, Tr. Robert Fagles; Read by Derek Jacobi: Penguin Classics Audio, 19.99 pounds

AN AWFUL lot of bullocks get burnt in the Iliad. But this is only the first of many salutary shocks awaiting those who decide to listen to the new Penguin Classics tape of Homer's amazing poem. We are living in a time when the so-called canon is often held up for ridicule: all those great books of the past are assumed to be merely a capitalist trick, a way of perpetuating a sexist-racist- bourgeois-fascist ideology. Even Homer is included in the list of those who somehow uphold our, er, totally bogus and irrelevant value system, with its hypocritical morality and parochial terror of 'the other'.
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
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Life and Style
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Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
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The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

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The male exhibits strange behaviour

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