Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Air to Beef (2023)

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Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Air to Beef (1)

It’s Easter, and a four-day Bank Holiday weekend. If you’re not too busy attending services or hunting for eggs, chances are you’ll have twice as much time to fill with all the film, TV, music, art, theatre and literature your heart desires.

To help you navigate this doubled-up weekend, therefore, we have returned with our weekly Arts Agenda, in which The Independent’s team of critics and arts editors hand-pick the very best culture to dive into this weekend.

Chief art critic Mark Hudson steers us towards a major new exhibition from one of the art world’s biggest figures. Arts editor Jessie Thompson champions a fascinating book inspired by Joni Mitchell’s Blue, and discusses the controversial new stage adaptation of A Little Life. Music editor Roisin O’Connor spreads the word that Big Thief are currently on tour – run, don’t walk! – while features editor Adam White has good things to say about Ben Affleck’s new drama Air, which concerns the high-flying world of... Nike shoe merchandising. Lastly, we have TV editor Ellie Harrison, who walks us through an intriguing new Netflix series.


Ai Weiwei: Making Sense

The pot-smashing activist-artist reconfigures parts of his vast collection of antiquities and ephemera into site-specific installations. From polyester backpacks to 1,000-year-old porcelain cannonballs, they all reflect on our simultaneous urges to accumulate and discard; the mood created is contemplative and strangely soothing. Read the full review here. Design Museum, until 30 July

Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Air to Beef (2)

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The Rossettis

Love them or loathe them, the Pre-Raphaelites continue to provide extraordinary insights into the Victorians’ interweaving obsessions: sex, death and culture. This entertaining show on the family that produced the movement’s de facto leader Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and his celebrated poet sister Christina, provides copious amounts of all three. Tate Britain, until 24 Sept

Steve McQueen: Grenfell

Consisting of a single 24-minute tracking shot over London, the Oscar-winning film director and artist’s film tribute to the 72 victims of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire is by all accounts a deeply moving experience. Advance booking essential. Read the full review here. Serpentine Gallery, until 10 May

Mark Hudson, chief art critic


Shy by Max Porter

Former bookseller turned prize-winning novelist Max Porter is back with his fourth novel, about a teenage boy who hears voices in his head. Porter’s novels may be short, but they have great emotional depth, as our chief book critic Martin Chilton attests in his five-star review, calling it “inventive” and “startlingly humane”. Don’t miss our interview with Porter, where he discusses everything from Shyto sensitivity readers.

Arrangements in Blue by Amy Key

The influence of Joni Mitchell’s Blue album is impossible to quantify (why else would I name my cat Joni?), and now it has inspired an intimate mediation on love and loneliness from poet Amy Key. At almost 44 years of age, Key reflects on long-term singledom and society’s fixation on romantic love, having not had a partner since the age of 22. Each chapter, written in lyrical prose, is named after a song from Mitchell’s epoch-defining album.

Jessie Thompson, arts editor



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Ben Affleck directs a star-studded drama about Nike executives attempting to sign a sponsorship deal with Michael Jordan. Controversially, Jordan (or an actor playing him) doesn’t actually appear, but Affleck makes up for it with rapid-fire dialogue and standout performances from the likes of Viola Davis, Matt Damon and the illusive Chris Tucker. In cinemas now

Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Air to Beef (3)

Blue Bag Life

Artist Lisa Selby recounts, through iPhone footage and voiceover, her final interactions with her mother, an addict who abandoned her when she was just 10 months old. The winner of the Audience Award at last year’s London Film Festival, Blue Bag Life is an intimate, often warm portrait of dysfunction and resilience. In cinemas now

Adam White, features editor


Thomas Bangalter – Mythologies

Mask (or rather, helmet) removed, Thomas Bangalter – famed as half of the French electronic duo Daft Punk – has just released his astounding, ambitious orchestral album, Mythologies. His first solo project since Daft Punk split in 2021 was scored at the request of choreographer Angelin Preljocaj for the ballet of the same name. Bangalter, whose mother was a ballet dancer, clearly excels when taken outside of his comfort zone: Mythologies is an ornate, cinematic wonder, with each movement named after a character or legend from Roman myth. On “Les Amazones”, you have the urgency of the violins and chirps of a piccolo, swooning into a waltz then back again. “Minotaure” is an ominous, horns-lowered terror, the rumble of the double bass so deep it emulates a growl. A truly remarkable work that proves the electronic mastermind is human, after all.

Billie Marten – Drop Cherries

British folk artist Billie Marten describes her 13-song fourth album, Drop Cherries, as “a collection of songs expressing genuine intuitive feeling”. Trusting her own instincts has paid off. In a five-star review of the album, out now, Annabel Nugent observes how Marten “dials back her sound to paint tender, intimate moments using only strokes of orchestral watercolour”. “‘Bend To Him’ is a sumptuous, pure paean to the simple truth of loving someone,” she continues. “Marten croons against the song’s minimalist instrumental scaffolding, like draping a linen shirt over a washing line in the garden. It’s genuinely romantic. The production remains mostly grounded in folky naturalism, as on album highlight, the band-led ‘I Can’t Get My Head Around You’ with its smattering of drums and Marten’s plain-spoken vulnerability.”

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Live music: Big Thief – Manchester

The American indie band are currently out on their UK and Europe tour, which on Friday 7 April will include a show at Manchester’s O2 Apollo Theatre. In a five-star review of their latest album, 2022’s Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You, critic Helen Brown praised the band for maintaining the high level of artistry we’ve come to know them for, even as they released a flurry of new projects. “Given the speed at which Big Thief have been releasing albums (seven in the past five years, if you count solo records), by now you’d expect them to sound either manic or exhausted,” she wrote. “But this wonderful double album finds the darlings of American indie-folk on a relaxed roll. Despite its long and exotic title, it has the rich comfort of a yearned-for homecoming, with space to stretch and breathe over 20 tracks.” To see them live is an experience all of its own - if you can get tickets, go!

Roisin O’Connor, music editor


A Little Life, Harold Pinter Theatre

This four-hour adaptation of Hanya Yanagihara’s divisive novel was always going to be a talking point, but controversy began pre-opening night when illicitly taken pictures of star James Norton naked on stage were published. (A terrible violation, I argued in a column last week.) It tells the story of four young male friends, one of whom – Jude, played by Norton – has a relentlessly traumatic time. Critics didn’t have the stomach for it, with Alice Saville writing in our review that she “felt manipulated by its naive and psychologically incurious narrative of abuse”.

Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Air to Beef (4)

Sucker Punch, Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch

When Roy Williams’s Sucker Punch opened at the Royal Court in 2010, it helped to launch the career of Daniel Kaluuya, winning him a handful of Best Newcomer gongs. The play, which tells the story of two young Black boxers and their white trainer in the 1980s, now gets a revival at Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, where the stage will be transformed into a boxing ring.

Jessie Thompson, arts editor

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A24, the trendy production house that brought us Moonlight, Lady Bird and Everything Everywhere All at Once, now has a new Netflix series: Beef. Steven Yeun and Ali Wong are exquisite as two strangers – one rich, one skint – who get into a road rage incident that brings chaos into their lives. It’s as stylish as you’d expect, and almost impossible not to gobble up in one sitting. Out now on Netflix

Our weekend arts and culture picks, from Air to Beef (5)


Lily Allen makes her TV acting debut in Dreamland, a Margate-set sitcom based on Sharon Horgan’s award-winning 2017 short. Our critic Isobel Lewis rated the former rebel popstar’s performance in the show, calling it “grounded” and “understated”. In the comedy, which oscillates between pretty-in-pink silliness and class commentary, Allen’s Mel is the black sheep of a family who are holding on to lots of secrets. Available on NOW


The Roys will be back on our screens, for better or worse, in the early hours of Monday morning. Episode two left us with many questions, such as “Does Logan love his children?” and “How can we stop Connor from ever doing karaoke again?” What we do know, at least, is that despite Willa seemingly having cold feet, the forthcoming third episode is likely to feature her wedding to Con. Succession weddings have historically led to high drama, so as Tom would say: buckle up, f***leheads… On Sky Atlantic and NOW from 2am on Monday

Ellie Harrison, TV editor


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