Arts Agenda

Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Silo to Ed Sheeran

A guide to the new releases over the coronation weekend

Friday 05 May 2023 12:55 BST
(Getty/ Apple TV (+))

It’s coronation weekend in the UK, and whether you’re looking to experience it in full or avoid it like the plague, there’s no shortage of cultural ways to pass the time.

To help you filter out the good from the bad, The Independent is here with our weekly Arts Agenda, in which our critics and arts editors have their say on the latest releases from across the worlds of literature, music, theatre, art, film and TV.

This week, chief art critic Mark Hudson highlights an essential retrospective from the seminal Blk Art Group collective. Arts editor Jessie Thompson recommends the latest uncanny novel from Deborah Levy, and heralds the start of a new season at Shakespeare’s Globe. Features editor Adam White finds the fun in three tonally disparate cinematic releases – including a new Marvel blockbuster and the brilliant Return to Seoul – while music editor Roisin O’Connor found herself an unlikely admirer of Ed Sheeran’s latest release. Finishing up the list is TV editor Ellie Harrison, who looks at Apple TV+’s buzzy new sci-fi thriller Silo.


Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece

A dazzling array of ancient luxury goods on a scale, and exhibiting a degree of near superhuman refinement, that puts the baubles of today’s oligarchs to shame. Alexander the Great may have trashed the Iranian Empire that produced this glittering hoard, but he retained the Eastern tradition of political gift-giving, to become a fact of European life into our own time. British Museum, until 13 Aug

Saint Francis of Assisi

An ambitious exhibition that brings together an extraordinary range of art to demonstrate why the medieval saint’s “spiritual radicalism” is still relevant today. Masterpieces from the gallery’s collection by Sassetta, Botticelli and Zurbaran sit beside international loans from figures as diverse as Caravaggio, Stanley Spencer, Antony Gormley and Richard Long. National Gallery, until 30 July

The more things change….. Examining the legacies of the Blk Art Group

An informal association of mostly Midlands-based students that came together in 1979, the Blk Art Group effectively invented Black British art, paving the way for the likes of Sonia Boyce and Steve McQueen. This show tells the group’s story in the gallery that housed their first major exhibition, with groundbreaking historical works and more recent pieces from the original core members. Wolverhampton Art Gallery, until 9 July

Mark Hudson, chief art critic


August Blue by Deborah Levy

Deborah Levy is back in the land of the uncanny for her new novel, a story about a woman who encounters a stranger who looks just like her. Awarded five stars by our chief book critic Martin Chilton, the latest book from the two-time Booker-shortlisted author is the perfect heady, evocative bank holiday read.

The Seaside: England’s Love Affair by Madeleine Bunting

We all like to be beside the seaside, but the question is: will the weather be nice enough this bank holiday weekend to actually go there? If not, maybe pick up a copy of Madeleine Bunting’s intriguing new book, which journeys from Scarborough to Blackpool to unpack our English obsession with the sites of sand and sticks of rock.

Jessie Thompson, arts editor


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3

Marvel has been drowning of late in tepid reviews and (for them) flat box office numbers, so the studio has probably breathed a sigh of relief that Guardians 3 has drawn decent early notices. This final entry in James Gunn’s ramshackle space franchise explores the tragic origins of Bradley Cooper’s Rocket Raccoon, while Maria Bakalova and Will Poulter make their MCU debuts as a talking dog and a golden man, respectively. Cinema! In cinemas now

Chris Pratt in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3'
Chris Pratt in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3' (Marvel/Disney)

One True Loves

Hollywood’s mission to adapt every one of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s beloved-by-BookTok novels continues here, with Shang-Chi’s Simu Liu, Hamilton’s Phillipa Soo and not-a-Hemsworth-but-may-as-well-be Australian hunk Luke Bracey leading this treacly romance. The three of them become embroiled in a love triangle when Soo’s Emma discovers that her apparently long-dead husband (Bracey) has in fact been stuck on a desert island for four years, threatening her impending nuptials to childhood BFF Sam (Liu). Cinema! Streaming on Prime Video now

Return to Seoul

On the other end of the spectrum, this week is Davy Chou’s marvellous Cambodian drama about longing, family and home, starring the artist Park Ji-Min as a young French woman searching for her birth parents. Told in increments over the course of several years, the film refuses easy answers and revels in character complexity. All the while Park anchors it with astonishing subtlety. Cinema! In cinemas now

Adam White, features editor


Album: Ed Sheeran – (Subtract)

The British singer-songwriter was in court this week defending himself (and winning) against accusations that he plagiarised Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On” for his 2014 single “Thinking Out Loud”. Yet it’s unlikely to overshadow the release of his latest album, (Subtract), the final project in his maths-titled collection of records. Listeners will find this is his most personal album to date, inspired by a tumultuous few years that saw the deaths of three of Sheeran’s close friends, including SBTV entrepreneur Jamal Edwards, and the birth of his second child. It’s certainly different, with Sheeran collaborating with The National’s Aaron Dessner on a more piano-focused sound. While he’s let down by his tendency to rely on lyrical cliches, there are some genuinely moving tracks here. It’s also gratifying to hear him attempt to move beyond his generic wedding-dance fodder and into something with a little more substance. Out now

Ed Sheeran photographed outside court last week
Ed Sheeran photographed outside court last week (Getty Images)

Live music: Coronation concert – Windsor Castle

You don’t have to be a raging royalist to get into the chaotic spirit of the coronation concert being held at Windsor Castle this weekend. Mark Beaumont hailed 2022’s Platinum Party at the Palace as “one of the most bizarre barrages of random entertainment ever staged”, loaded with cultural juxtapositions. This weekend’s event appears to be following suit, with headline performances from Take That, Lionel Richie and, err, Katy Perry, plus Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli and classical musician Alexis Ffrench. It’s a categorically insane melting pot, but, judging by last year, they’ll probably pull it off. If you don’t have tickets, you can tune in via the BBC’s live coverage. Sunday 7 May

Roisin O’Connor, music editor


The Motive and the Cue

The play’s not the thing, here, but the rehearsals. The latest from Jack Thorne takes audiences behind the scenes of John Gielgud’s 1964 production of Hamlet, which starred Richard Burton. Mark Gatiss is unbelievably good as Gielgud, polite, tentative and mourning his glory days, while Johnny Flynn’s Burton tries to conjure a glory for his own generation. The pair spar about soliloquies; it’s spellbinding. National Theatre, until 15 July

Mark Gatiss and Johnny Flynn in ‘The Motive and the Cue’
Mark Gatiss and Johnny Flynn in ‘The Motive and the Cue’ (Mark Douet)

August in England

Lenny Henry’s debut play, an intimate one-man show performed by the man himself, is about a West Bromwich man with three kids and a fruit and veg shop. His life, however, is soon upended by the Windrush scandal, as he faces deportation from the only country he remembers. Co-directed by Lynette Linton and Daniel Bailey, it’s the latest strong commission from the Shepherd’s Bush theatre, which has staked its claim as London’s best venue for new writing. Bush Theatre, until 10 June

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Summer is on its way, which means groundling season is back at Shakespeare’s Globe. The new season kicks off with crowdpleaser Midsummer Night’s Dream, and artistic director Michelle Terry plays Puck. Obviously, this is British summer, so pack three layers of jumpers in your bag. Shakespeare’s Globe, until 12 August

Jessie Thompson, arts editor


Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story

Get ready for bursting corsets and Regency balls: Bridgerton is back on Netflix – but this time with a show about the origin story of Queen Charlotte, played here by India Amarteifio. The series opens with an amusing disclaimer about the drama being a work of fiction, to fend off any historical purists or, let’s face it, bigots… and our critic Nicole Vassell loved it, awarding the series four stars. Out now on Netflix


Apple’s new dystopian thriller (off the back of the brilliant office sci-fi Severance) follows a community of 10,000 people who live in a huge underground chamber. Nobody knows why they’re there, who built it, or what has become of the outside world. But a sheriff (David Oyelowo) and an engineer (Rebecca Ferguson) slowly begin to discover the truth. Tim Robbins, Harriet Walter, Geraldine James and Iain Glen also star. Out now on Apple TV+

‘Silo’ is released on Apple TV+
‘Silo’ is released on Apple TV+ (Apple TV+)

Black Ops

This new BBC comedy’s title is a play on the words “Black cops”, with the two leads – Gbemisola Ikumelo (who also wrote the show) and Hammed Animashaun – portraying a pair of goofy police officers thrown into a mission way out of their depth. They’re asked to go undercover and infiltrate a London drug gang: the results are both hilarious and shockingly dark. At 9.30pm on Friday 5 May on BBC One

Ellie Harrison, TV editor

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in