Arts and Entertainment

Even if the sexual activity of Gill was not widely known in 1931 when this classic work was first published, his repeated references to “love-making” might have suggested that his interests were not purely typographical. On the latter subject, he is authoritative: “Lettering is for us the Roman alphabet.”

THEATRE / Hello, hello, it's good to be back

Nicholas Hytner's sharp, smart and impeccably stylish production of Xerxes defined a late- 20th-century approach to the staging of Handel's operas when it first appeared at ENO in 1985. Obliquely camp, emphatically post- modern, it was a joy to watch from start to finish - which is more than you can say of most Handelian theatre - with a finesse of detail that was nicely judged to fascinate the eye but not obscure the music; and for its efforts it picked up a well-deserved Olivier Award. How much of the finesse survives now that the piece has been handed on to one of ENO's less inspiring staff producers for its fourth revival is an open question. But the basics remain, as do some of the previous personnel - including Christopher Robson and Yvonne Kenny (left), who were superb before, and the period-specialist conductor Ivor Bolton (likewise). The revival opens 14 Jan and continues 19, 21, 26, 28 Jan, 3, 9, 11, 14, 16 and 24 Feb. Box office: 071-836 3161. Michael White

VIDEO / 8 1/2 (15; Connoisseur)

Post-modernism, 1963-style: Fellini's film about film-making, with Marcello Mastroianni as the director on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Dated, but fitfully arresting.

Bookshop Window: Collected Poems - P J Kavanagh: Carcanet, pounds 18.95

P J Kavanagh's Collected Poems would be worth the price for one gorgeous spread alone, pages 56-57, with three poems - 'The Temperance Billiards Room', 'In the Rubber Dinghy', and 'Perfection Isn't Like a Perfect Story' - that ought to be among the most famous of the late 20th century. Perhaps if they became Poems on the Underground, they would be; perfect cameos of love, they show that all the traditional virtues of poetry can still function in the post-modern age. Especially in his later poems, Kavanagh is our modern MacNeice, with all that master's knack of blending the homespun with a nimble suavity.

Letter: The means test and the modernisation of benefits

Sir: Polly Toynbee's article ('The nagging doubt of the benefit', 18 December) itself created some nagging doubts in my mind.

Contemporary Poets: 13 Hugo Williams

Hugo Williams made his name with youthful, Thom Gunnish poems about travel, identity and desire - and an alter ego called Sonny Jim. He came into his own with the collections Love-Life (1979), plain-seeming love poems edged with surrealism, and then Writing Home (1985), a moving series of poems about his actor-father. Now 50, he continues to explore aspects of the divided self.

Letter: Tripp-tease

Sir: Could you please settle a good old-fashioned pub argument? I say that your new cartoon character 'Tripp' is a highly sophisticated, post-modernist, deconstructed Candide figure for our times. My mates say he's a load of boring rubbish. Which of us is right?
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