The theme of Jonathan Rendall's writing life was risk. He came to prominence in the late 1980s as a vital new voice covering that most literary of sports, boxing, and captured in urgent, seductive prose the risk to life and limb that assails a fighter every time he enters the ring. But the risk came closer to home too. Rendall wrote about playing the odds in a book called, ominously, Twelve Grand. The terms of the contract with his publisher were that he would take his advance – the titular £12,000 – and gamble it. It's one measure of how well the gambling paid that later in life he would joke about a sequel called Twelve Quid.
Readers of fiction, Howard Jacobson argued at a literary symposium recently, ought to be able to withstand the “expression of an ugly point of view”.
TV pick of the week
Trevor Nunn has realised a forty-year dream by at last directing Tom Stoppard’s first masterpiece Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, as the second production of his captivating season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket.
The Victorian era is not generally regarded as one that greatly contributed to the progress of British theatre – and now the architecture of the age has scuppered a modern production.
The Week in Arts
Adam Mars-Jones' sharp pen has earnt him some enemies but, as James Kidd discovers, he can be his own harshest critic
Ben Stephenson is shaking things up at the corporation
How do you make torture entertaining? How do you stage terror, infanticide, brutalisation and extraordinary rendition in a way that leaves your audience uplifted and in the mood for a drinks party? That's the problem that faced the Human Rights Watch organisation at the weekend, as they staged their benefit night at London's Royal Court Theatre. Rather than relying, as they have in previous years, on the reportage of individuals (which can be a recipe for earnestness and gloom), the organisers commissioned several mini-dramas from famous playwrights and actors, under the umbrella title The Laws of War. I checked the programme: there were nine events – an hour and a half of gruelling statistics and savage political satire, before we could hit the free wine. "Enjoy," said the ticket-tearer. I scanned her face for signs of irony.
Latest work by Britain's leading dramatist targets rights abuses of 'War on Terror'
Owing as much, or as little, to Noël Coward's Private Lives and Harold Pinter's Betrayal, as it does to his own deliciously quirky and provisional temperament, Tom Stoppard's marvellous 1982 comedy is, above all, a play about the theatre; or a play about love in the theatre; or a play about expressing love in the theatre, as opposed to love of the theatre.
It's often said that the love affair with conceptualism over the past 20 years has damaged the status of figurative painting. It would be more precise to say that portraiture has been a casualty. While it is widely practised and exhibited, its leading lights have not become household names in the way that the ageing young turks of Britart did.
Branagh at his best in Donmar season debut
A list of all those who joined the Prime Minister and his wife Sarah at the country retreat during his first year as Premier, also including the Duke of York, was published by No 10 today.
Plays, politics and patriotism: Tom Stoppard's search for meaning in an uncertain present always takes him back into the past. The playwright, now garlanded with an international award, talks to Ciar Byrne