Tom Stoppard

The week in radio: Tom Stoppard shines as he tackles the dark side of

You only needed to watch the animated trailer for Darkside – that's right, a trailer, with images, for radio. What madness is this? – to know it was going to be totally off its box. A toy farmer stood staring at the skies; giant angle grinders sliced up the earth; a figure sat on a hospital bed with a massive propeller where his head should be.

Stoppard back on the BBC after an interval of three decades

Sir Tom Stoppard is to work with BBC television for the first time in more than 30 years, making a five-hour epic tale of the Great War which he hopes will revive the reputation of one of Britain's finest novelists of the early 20th century, Ford Madox Ford.

John Walsh: Yes, Tom Stoppard, it was me laughing

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.

Kurt Cobain: The play

As a new play about Kurt Cobain opens, Nancy Groves considers the frequently discordant history of bands in the theatre

Daphne Todd: Portrait commissions, Messum's, London

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.

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It happened one Christmas

'Tis the season to tell a cracking good yarn. We asked five of our favourite columnists to reveal their Yuletide memories from first loves, via crazy horses, to doorstepping Felicity Kendal