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Front Row
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Front Row
Archive information: January 2008 - November 2007
Looking for the details of something you heard on the programme? Book titles, release dates?  Please email us with your query if you're still stuck...
Featured interview: Alan Bennett In Conversation
Alan BennettAlan Bennett talks about his work for stage & screen and family secrets. Listen again to Alan BennettListen Again  

January

Friday 11 January 2008
Kirsty Lang presenting

City Of Vice
Eighteenth century London was a violent, virtually lawless city. In 1749 Parliament allowed Henry Fielding, author of Tom Jones, and his social reforming brother Sir John Fielding to put together Britain’s first police force – the Bow Street Runners. Henry Fielding’s diary and records of the Bow Street Magistrates court sessions have now been turned into a police drama for Channel 4 with Ian McDiarmid and Iain Glen as the crime fighting brothers. Kirsty Lang discusses City of Vice with historian Lucy Moore and crime writer Dreda Say Mitchell.

City of Vice begins on Monday 14 January on Channel 4 at 9pm.

Sherman Alexie
The novelist Sherman Alexie has been described as the finest chronicler of contemporary Native American experience. Brought up on a reservation outside of Washington, Alexie is the author of numerous books, short stories, poems and screenplays, all of which shed light on Native American life today. Kirsty Lang speaks to Sherman Alexie about his latest book, Flight, which tells the story of a young Native American boy on the verge of committing a mass shooting.

Flight by Sherman Alexie is published in paperback.

Going Nuclear
After the government formally backed proposals to build a new generation of nuclear power plants, Stephen Armstrong and Kirsty Lang ponder on Mr Burns and other cultural references relating to atomic power. We take a look through film and tv history and discuss the influence that nuclear energy might have on pop music.

Weekend Warriors
You're never too old to Rock and Roll...If you have always dreamed of being a rock star and performing at your own live gig - well now’s there's a chance to make your Rock Dreams come true by becoming a Weekend Warrior…...The idea behind the Weekend Warriors scheme, is to give lapsed musicians the once in a lifetime opportunity to re-join a band and relive their musical youth - and to this end, they provide equipment, rehearsal space, and a mentor to give advice and support.
Last week, comedian Danny Robins joined 'Fourth Chord' - one of the Weekend Warriors bands - during their rehearsals. In part two, Danny catches up with the nervous band members on the night of their big gig!
http://www.mia.org.uk/weekendwarriors/

Liverpool 08
With the opening ceremony of Liverpool's Year of European Capital of Culture - The People's Opening - beginning less than half an hour after Front Row ends, Kirsty Lang talks to Phil Redmond, who - as Deputy Chairman of Liverpool Culture Company - has been heavily involved in organising the year's events.

Live coverage of The People's Opening, at 20.08 on 11 Jan, and the specially-commissioned work, Liverpool - The Musical, at 20.08 on Saturday 12 January, can be heard online via www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool08

Liverpool the Musical features a once-in-a-lifetime cast including: Vasily Petrenko and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in collaboration with No Fakin DJs, Ringo Starr, Echo and The Bunnymen, Ian Broudie, The Farm, The Wombats, Pete Wylie, Dave Stewart from the Eurythmics, and the people of the city.

Thursday 10 January 2008
Kirsty Lang presenting

Tom Hanks
Kirsty Lang talks to Tom Hanks about his Golden Globe nominated role in Charlie Wilson's War, a political comedy which also stars Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and is directed by Mike Nichols (Primary Colours) with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing). The film tells the true story of how a playboy Texan congressman, a renegade CIA agent and a beautiful socialite joined forces to instigate a covert operation to provide arms to ordinary Afghans resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. When Zia ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan, was asked how a group of peasants had been able to repel a superpower, he replied simply, "Charlie did it".

Charlie Wilson's War is released nationwide on Friday 11th January, certificate 15

Lark Rise to Candleford
The latest BBC television costume drama is an adaptation of Flora Thompson's semi-autobiographical trilogy Lark Rise To Candleford. The production is set in nineteenth century rural England and stars Dawn French, Julia Sawalha and Liz Smith. Kirsty Lang discusses the adaptation with biographer Kathryn Hughes.

Lark Rise to Candleford begins on Sunday on BBC One at 7.40pm

Supporting Excellence in the Arts
A major report laying out the government's new thinking on arts policy has been published today. Written by Sir Brian McMaster, and commissioned by the Secretary of State for Culture, James Purnell, the report - entitled Supporting Excellence in the Arts - sets out new ways to recognise and reward high-quality work in arts and culture. Kirsty Lang speaks to James Purnell and to Brian McMaster about the key recommendations in the report and about their ideas on how excellence in the arts should be nurtured.

La Cage Aux Folles
A new production of La Cage Aux Folles comes to London this week. Based on the French play by Jean Poiret, the show is about nightclub owners Albin and Georges. Georges's son Jean-Michel wants to marry the daughter of a local politician who unfortunately objects to Albin’s drag act. Kirsty Lang discusses the production with writer and critic Adam Mars-Jones.

La Cage Aux Folles is at the Menier Chocolate Factory, London until 8th March

Wednesday 09 January 2008
Mark Lawson presenting

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
The winner of this year's coveted Palme D'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival is an uncompromising look at life during communist Romania. The film tells the tragic story of two female university students who try to arrange an illegal abortion during the late 1980s. The novelist Sarah Dunant joins Mark Lawson to help give the Front Row verdict.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is released at selected cinemas from this Friday, certificate 15.

Harold Pinter Archive
After acquiring the Harold Pinter archive in December 2007, the British Library are displaying the works in an exhibition that documents Harold Pinter's life in the theatre as an actor, director, and writer. Mark Lawson and actor Henry Goodman take a look at a selection of exhibits which include unique manuscripts, letters and photographs.

His Own Domain: Harold Pinter, A Life in Theatre is on display in the British Library from 10 January to 13 April 2008.

Films or Movies…?
Following the announcement by Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCanns, that there are certainly no plans to make a "movie" about Madeleine, Mark Lawson and film historian Ian Christie discuss the etymology of the word, "movie", consider the differences between a TV-Film, a Film-Film and a made-for-TV Movie - and explore when and why these and similar terms are seen as pejorative.

Fintan Ryan
As the festive season ends and the nation begins its collective detox, BBC2 is screening a new comedy about a recovering alcoholic to fit with the public mood of abstinence. Starring Stephen Mangan, Never Better follows one man's attempts to be more involved in the lives of his family and the pitfalls of attending AA meetings. Mark Lawson discusses the six-part comedy with the writer of the series Fintan Ryan.


Tuesday 08 January 2008
Kirsty Lang presenting

Tasmin Little
Tasmin Little, the internationally-renowned violinist, is about to release her first new recording in 4 years. However, rather than being a cd, the new recording - entitled The Naked Violin © - will be available exclusively for download, free of charge. Tasmin has also recorded spoken introductions to each work, and the new recording will give listeners a rare opportunity to compare and contrast two of the world's finest Italian violins: the Regent Stradivarius of 1708, on loan to Tasmin from the Royal Academy of Music, and her own 1757 Guadagnini. She talks to Kirsty Lang about these two magical instruments, about her choices of music - and her reasons for releasing the recording as a free download.

The Naked Violin © - will be available to download, free of charge, from www.tasminlittle.net by Saturday 19th January, 2008

4th Plinth
The six shortlisted proposals for the next commission for the 4th Plinth at Trafalgar Square have just been unveiled in The National Gallery. The latest artistic contenders - Anthony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Jeremy Deller, Yinka Shonibare, Tracey Emin, Bob and Roberta Smith - are a prestigious list, including three Turner prize winners and two Turner nominees. Each artist has made a scale model of their proposed artwork, all exhibited at the National Gallery. John Wilson asked the artists to explain themselves ...
4th Plinth Gallery


Fairy Tales
Four classic fairy tales have been updated and adapted by contemporary writers into comedy dramas for BBC One. Cinderella has been reworked by Richard Pinto and Anil Gupta from Goodness Gracious Me, Rapunzel has been given a modern equivalent by Ed Roe from Teachers, Debbie Horsfield, writer of Cutting It has created the Empress's New Clothes and Jeremy Dyson of The League of Gentlemen has updated Billy Goats Gruff. Kirsty Lang discusses updating fairy tales with writers Jeremy Dyson and Anil Gupta.

Fairy Tales begins on BBC1 at 9pm on Thursday, 10th January

Golden Globes
The cancellation of the Golden Globes awards ceremony is the latest development in the nine-week-long strike of the Hollywood writer's strike. Steven Gaydos of Variety magazine and Kirsty Lang consider the implications for the film industry.

Monday 07 January 2008
Mark Lawson presenting

Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

Director Sidney Lumet is best known for a string of taut cinematic thrillers from the 1970s, including Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon. His latest film, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, is being heralded as a long-awaited return to form for the octegenarian. Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, the film tackles the moral consequences of a botched heist. Film critic Adrian Wootton joins Mark Lawson to give the Front Row verdict.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead is released at selected cinemas from this Friday, certificate 15 (nationwide from Feb 1st).

The Palace + Honest
With the new year come two new dramas from ITV - both dealing with families going through big changes. The Palace is about the sudden accession of a young, irresponsible, boozy prince to the British throne, whilst Honest is the tale of a crooked family going straight after the head of the household is sent to jail. Joining Mark Lawson to discuss the programmes are comedian Natalie Haynes and TV critic Chris Dunkley.

Honest starts on ITV this Wednesday at 9pm and The Palace starts on ITV next Monday, 14th January, at 9pm.

Richard T. Kelly
Richard T Kelly’s debut novel Crusaders explores religion, politics and crime in Newcastle and the North East of England in the late 1990s. Previously the author of a book about the filmmaking movement Dogme 95 and a biography of Sean Penn, Richard Kelly talks to Mark Lawson about why he chose to venture into the world of fiction writing.

Crusaders is published on January 17th

Army + Culture
Mark Lawson finds out about the Army's new Potential Officer's Development Course which involves a cultural training programme for soldiers. Mark discusses the course with Major Miles Hayman, Commanding Officer at the Army School of Education, and with BBC correspondent Mark Urban, and finds out what Spamalot and Madam Butterfly have in common as far as the Army is concerned.


Friday 04 January 2008
John Wilson presenting

Mistresses
A new BBC drama series Mistresses focuses on four women, whose occupation appears to be discussing sex at great length. Sarah Parish gives the central performance as Katie, the lovelorn doctor with a terrible secret. The critic Bidisha joins John Wilson to discuss the drama.

Mistresses begins on BBC ONE on Tuesday evening at 9pm

Stavanger
Liverpool is not the only 2008 European Capital of Culture. It shares the title with the Norwegian coastal town of Stavanger. John Wilson travels to Scandinavia to see what cultural delights Stavanger has to offer.

Duffy v Adele
With Amy Winehouse silent for the immediate future, the way might be clear for two new young women - the blond Welsh singer Duffy and the 19-year-old Adele have strong similarities in their singing styles, harking back to Dusty Springfield. The music journalist Laura Barton reflects on the rise of these two young stars.

The single Rockferry by Duffy is out now and the CD of the same name is out on 3rd March on Universal
The single Chasing Pavements by Adele is out on 21st Jan and her new CD 19 is out on 28th Jan on XL Records

Noah Charney
Noah Charney is an expert of the history of art crime and the founding director of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art. His debut novel follows three stolen paintings to Rome, Paris and London.

The Art Thief by Noah Charney is out now


Thursday 03 January 2008
John Wilson presenting

Echo Beach and Moving Wallpaper
Extras is a comedy about a fictional sitcom and the man who stars in it; The Larry Sanders Show was set behind the scenes of a fictional show of the same name; and now ITV are set to air Moving Wallpaper - a soap set in a fictional production company as it makes another soap called Echo Beach... which is then itself shown straight after in the ITV schedule. Boyd Hilton, TV Editor of Heat magazine, gives John Wilson his verdict on the two programmes. 

Moving Wallpaper and Echo Beach begin at 9 and 9.30pm respectively on January 10 on ITV1.

Neil MacGregor
Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, has just been appointed by the government as the UK's cultural ambassador to the rest of the world - and they've given him £3 million to spend. John Wilson asks him how he plans to use the money.

2008 Art Lookahead
Art critic Richard Cork gives Front Row his tips for unmissable art exhibitions to see in the year ahead.

George MacDonald Fraser
Writer and critic DJ Taylor pays tribute to George MacDonald Fraser, bestselling author of the Flashman novels, whose death has been announced today.

Weekend Warriors
Weekend Warriors is a scheme that gives lapsed musicians the chance to join a band and relive their musical youth. Music stores throughout the UK provide the equipment and support, and bring together band members, who after 5 rehearsals play a live gig. For Front Row Danny Robins followed the newly formed Weekend Warrior band Fourth Chord.

The Weekend Warrior scheme is run by the Music Industries Association (MIA)www.mia.org.uk


Wednesday 02 January 2008
Mark Lawson presenting

Vangelis

The 64-year-old Greek composer Vangelis Papathanasiou became a household name in 1981 for his music for the film Chariots of Fire, for which he won an Oscar. He followed up that success a year later with his soundtrack for the cult film Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott. In a rare interview recorded down the line from his studio in Athens, Vangelis reflects on his career and shares his love of music with Mark Lawson.

Blade Runner: The Final Cut is in selected cinemas now, and a triple CD of the complete soundtrack has just been released for the first time, on the Universal label

Costa Book Awards
Chair of judges Joanna Trollope announces the category winners of the 2007 Costa Book Awards - and Prof John Sutherland gives his view on the winning writers. 

The five successful authors who will now contest for the 2007 Costa Book of the Year are: 

Catherine O’Flynn for What Was Lost 
AL Kennedy for Day
Simon Sebag Montefiore for Young Stalin
Jean Sprackland for Tilt
Ann Kelley for The Bower Bird

The curse of the Best Actress Oscar
PS I Love You - out in cinemas this week - has been widely panned by critics. So what's Oscar-winning Hilary Swank doing in it? Film critic Mark Eccleston reflects why so many academy award winning actresses seem doomed always to follow a plum role with a bum one.

PS I Love You is at cinemas nationwide from Friday, certificate 12A

Adieu, café society
As the smoking ban imposed in France yesterday threatens the quintessentailly French concept of 'Café Society', novelist Edmund White, who lived in Paris for a number of years, talks about the importance of 'Café Society' to French culture, and how important the smoking was.

Leonard B Meyer RIP
As the death of pioneering musicologist Leonard B Meyer is announced, Front Row plays an example of the 'Deceptive Cadence' that he wrote about in his book  Emotion and Meaning in Music.


Tuesday 01 January 2008
Kirsty Lang presenting

Ang Lee Special

In a special edition of Front Row, Kirsty Lang is joined by the Oscar winning Taiwanese film director Ang Lee. His diverse range of films include the Jane Austen period drama Sense and Sensibility, the martial arts box office hit Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and the gay cowboy epic Brokeback Mountain. Lee’s latest is Lust, Caution, a tale of love and betrayal set in Shanghai during World War Two. It won the top prize at last year’s Venice Film Festival and is released here on Friday. Ang Lee talks to Kirsty about jumping from genre to genre, the difficulty of directing in a foreign language, and his habit of secretly staring at the audience while they watch his movies.


December

Monday 31 December
Mark Lawson presenting

New Year's Special

In a special New Year's Eve edition of the programme, Mark Lawson asks actors and actresses to reflect on their acting careers. He discusses about training, casting, performance, looks and technique with Daniel Radcliffe, Timothy Spall, David Haig, Jamie Bell, Billie Piper, Joanna Lumley, Warren Mitchell, Robert Redford, David Thewlis, Patterson Joseph and Denzil Washington.


Friday 28 December
John Wilson presenting

Norman Foster Special
In a special edition, John Wilson meets the architect Norman Foster, whose buildings include the so-called Gherkin in London, the Sage in Gateshead and Wembley Stadium, as well as what is arguably the world's biggest structure - the vast new airport in Beijing. Lord Foster reflects on his childhood in Manchester, the importance and influence of flight and flying on his designs, and his need always to have a pencil and paper close to hand. John visits three of Lord Foster's most prominent recent designs, and architecture writer Hugh Pearman assesses Foster's career of more than four decades.


Thursday 27 December
Mark Lawson presenting

Public Sculpture Special
Mark Lawson visits the Eden Project, the rooftop of the Hayward gallery in London, a derelict shop in Liverpool, a circular sheep pen in Yorkshire and a beach on which 100 iron figures are battered by the waves. In a programme which reflects the rise in public sculptures being put up around Britain - Mark is joined by the artists Antony Gormley, Andy Goldsworthy, Sir Anthony Caro, Peter Randall Page, Richard Wilson and Sean Henry to discuss their work.

View Sculpture Gallery


Wednesday 26 December
Kirsty Lang presenting

The Disney Songbook Special
Oscar-winning songwriter Richard Sherman's collaboration with Walt Disney produced some of the most memorable tunes in cinematic history . His films include Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Winnie the Pooh, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The AristoCats and The Slipper and the Rose. Kirsty Lang joins Richard at the piano to discuss how he came up with the words and music for classics such as Chim Chim Cheree, I Wan’na Be Like You and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. He talks about his friendship with Walt Disney and sings the song Disney would request he play in his office each Friday afternoon.

Plus Don Black, John L Walters and Hal Wilner on Disney's continuing influence.


Tuesday 25 December - Merry Christmas!
No programme today.


Monday 24 December
Mark Lawson presenting

A Special Programme with the Winners of the Main Literary Awards in 2007, along with some of the Year's most High-Profile Writers.

Mark Lawson interviews: Anne Enright, winner of the Man Booker Prize, for the The Gathering Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Stef Penney, winner of the Costa Book Award, for The Tenderness of Wolves. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, winner of the Orange Prize, for Half of a Yellow Sun. Ian McEwan, author of On Chesil Beach and Atonement. Ian Rankin, who this year appeared to bid farewell to his long-serving detective Rebus, and Sgt Dan Mills the serving solder who wrote Sniper One.


Friday 21 December
Mark Lawson presenting

Cultural Highlights of 2007

Lie of The Land
Mark Lawson talks to documentary maker Molly Dineen about her Channel 4 film 'The Lie of the Land'.

Cranford
Mark Lawson talks to writer Heidi Thomas about her hugely successful adaptation for television of Elizabeth Gaskell's stories of mid-nineteenth century womenfolk.

Control
Mark Lawson talks to screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh whose independent film Control about Ian Curtis, the Macclesfield-born lead singer of the Seventies band Joy Division, looks set for Oscars.

Diamond Skull
Mark Lawson talks to Damien Hirst about his diamond encrusted human skull which sold this year for fifty million pounds.

Prince
Mark Lawson discusses Prince's twenty one show run at the O2 Arena with novelist Matt Thorne who attended nineteen of the shows.

Amy Winehouse & Pete Doherty
Journalist Miranda Sawyer reflects on a turbulent year for singers Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty.


Thursday 20 December
John Wilson presenting

Paranoid Park
Paranoid Park is the latest film from Gus Van Sant, the director of Good Will Hunting and My Own Private Idaho. Based on the novel of the same name by Blake Nelson, the film delves into the life of a teenage skateboarder in the director's home town of Portland, Oregon. A fellow skater in his youth, Van Sant cast many non-professional actors for the film, including 16-year old Gabe Nevins as the lead. John Wilson is joined by novelist and critic Bidisha to discuss the film.

Paranoid Park is in cinemas in selected cities from 26 December, certificate 15.

Garrison Keillor
John Wilson talks to the novelist and raconteur Garrison Keillor, chronicler of small town American life, and genial host of the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, memorably captured on the big screen by director Robert Altman. Keillor talks about the latest novel in his Lake Wobegon series, Pontoon.

Pontoon is published by Faber.

Xmas Radio Picks
In the last of Front Row's Christmas selections, radio critic Gillian Reynolds talks to John Wilson about her top radio programmes over the holiday period. Gillian's picks are:

1. Wooden Overcoat Radio 4 Saturday Play, 2.30 pm, 22nd Dec
2. The Witches Radio 4 Classic Serial: 3pm, Sunday 23rd and 29th Dec (repeated the following Sat at 9pm)
3. Sunday Feature: A Cloud in a Paper Bag Radio 3, 9.45pm 23rd Dec
4. Book of the Week: The King's Glass Radio 4, 9.45am (repeated at half-past midnight) 24th-28th Dec
5. Woman's Hour Drama: MR James at Christmas Radio 4 10.45am (repeated 7.45pm) 24th-28th Dec

Kazuo Ishiguro + Stacey Kent
Kazuo Ishiguro is best known for his Booker Award-winning book The Remains of the Day, later adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins. Yet his latest project sees him venturing into the world of songwriting. Ishiguro has written the lyrics for many of the songs on jazz singer Stacey Kent's new album, Breakfast on the Morning Tram. Kent and Ishiguro join John Wilson to discuss their collaboration and what light it has shed on their own working practices.

Breakfast on the Morning Tram is available on the Blue Note label.


Wednesday 19 December
John Wilson presenting

Will Smith
Will Smith talks to John Wilson about why box office numbers are more important to him than winning awards; and his latest role in the psychological action film 'I Am Legend'. Will Smith plays a brilliant scientist, who could not contain an unstoppable, man-made virus and is the last human survivor in New York City, perhaps the world. He's not alone though, as mutant victims of the plague lurk in the shadows. Neville is mankind's last hope and with his own immune blood hopes to reverse the effects of the virus. But he is outnumbered ...and quickly running out of time.

I Am Legend is released nationwide on Boxing Day, certificate 15

Xmas selection of Art Books:   View Art Book Gallery
Art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston reveals her choices of xmas books:

A Life Of Picasso: Volume III The Triumphant Years 1917-1932, by John Richardson; published by Cape, price £30
Great Collectors Of Our Time: Art Collecting Since 1945, by James Stourton; published by Scala, price £45
Klimt, edited by Alfred Weidinger; published by Prestel, price £89
King Tutankhamun: The Treasures Of The Tomb, by Zahi Hawass; published by Thames & Hudson

Sir Norman Reid RIP
John Wilson and art critic Bill Feaver consider the career and legacy of Sir Norman Reid, former director of The (then) Tate Gallery, and who was the only director of the Tate to have been a genuinely practising artist.

Sir Norman Reid 1915-2007

Much Ado About Nothing
John Wilson and author & critic Sarah Dunant review the National Theatre's new production of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Simon Russell-Beale and Zoe Wanamaker as the continually-squabbling Benedick and Beatrice.

Much Ado About Nothing runs at the Olivier Theatre, London, until March 29th

Aretha Franklin
Paul Gambaccini listens to a new collection of rare and unreleased recordings by soul queen Aretha Franklin, dating from the 1960s, and assesses their importance to her legendary career.

Aretha Franklin: Rare & Unreleased Recordings From The Golden Reign Of The Queen Of Soul is available from Rhino records


Tuesday 18 December
Mark Lawson presenting

St. Trinian's
St. Trinian’s, the infamous school for ‘young ladies’, is back and once again facing dire financial crisis.  The bank is threatening headmistress Miss Fritton (Rupert Everett) with closure, and her unorthodox doctrine is also under threat from the new Education Minister (Colin Firth). Can the ungovernable girls of St. Trinian's - with the help of post-modern spiv Flash Harry (Russell Brand) - save the school from bankruptcy? Comedian and critic Natalie Haynes shares her verdict on the film with Mark Lawson.

St. Trinian's opens on Friday 21st December, certificate 12A

Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais talks to Mark Lawson about the final episode of Extras. With a cast including Gordon Ramsay, George Michael, Clive Owen and David Tennant, the last installment of the story of fame-hungry Andy Millman sees the character dropping his hapless agent to hit the big time.

Extras is on BBC1 at 9pm on 27th December

Booker Prize judges
Michael Portillo has been named as the Chairman of the 2008 Man Booker Prize judging panel. He joins Mark Lawson, along with former Chair of Judges Professor John Sutherland, to examine what makes a good judge, and to compare and contrast the literary professor's experience with the expectations of the former politician.

Names from songs
This year, the top names for baby girls include Grace, Ruby, Amy and Lily - but why? Are they just good old fashioned names, or are modern parents naming their children after Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse? Are the Kaiser Chiefs really responsible for a generation of Rubys? Did the air-play of Grace Kelly by Mika result in a number 1 in the baby naming charts? Danny Robins muses on the power of music and whether this year's most popular baby names are inspired by popular culture.


Monday 17 December
Mark Lawson presenting

I'm Not There
Bob Dylan's life and works are the inspiration behind the star-studded film, I'm Not There. Directed by the Oscar nominated Todd Haynes, the film controversially uses six very different actors to portray distinct stages in Dylan's life, ranging from the young Marcus Carl Franklin, to the ageing Richard Gere, and with a memorable performance from Cate Blanchett showing Dylan at the height of his career. Using an unconventional, almost poetic, narrative style, the film's structure has been compared to Dylan's own songwriting, but how will audiences respond to this cinematic love letter? Film critic Adrian Wootton helps Mark Lawson deliver the Front Row verdict.

I'm Not There is released at cinemas nationwide from Friday 21st December, certificate 15

The Dylan Basement Audition Tapes
It must be a strange experience watching an actor playing "you" - even more so, when it's a half-dozen people playing you at different stages in your life. Actor & writer Kerry Shale, a self-confessed Dylan-obsessive, imagines the casting auditions for I'm Not There - as overseen by Bob himself…

Crime books of the year
Front Row's Crime specialist Jeff Park looks back over a strong year for crime fiction and discusses his favourites with Mark Lawson, his full list being:

Michael Dibdin – End Games
Michele Giuttari – A Florentine Death
Martha Grimes – Dust
Åsa Larsson – The Blood Spilt
Laura Lippman – What the Dead Know
Ian Rankin – Exit Music
Matt Rees – The Bethlehem Murders
Grace Brophy – The Last Enemy 
Colin Cotterill – Anarchy and Old Dogs
Peter James – Not Dead
Martin O’Brien Jacquot & The Fifteen
Qiu Xiaolong – A Case of Two Cities

Peter Spence
26 years since almost twenty four million viewers saw their on-screen marriage, Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles return to our screens as the aristocratic Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton and the nouveau riche Richard DeVere, for a one-off Christmas special of To The Manor Born. Peter Spence talks to Mark Lawson about writing the new episode for the original cast in the original location.

To The Manor Born is on BBC 1 at 9.30pm on Christmas Day


Friday 14 December
John Wilson presenting

Radiohead
John Wilson meets Thom Yorke and Ed O'Brien of Radiohead, then band who recently surprised the music industry by releasing their album In Rainbows online and allowing fans to pay what they wanted, if anything.

In Rainbows is released in shops on 31 December

My Kid Could Paint That
David D'Arcy of the Art Newspaper discusses the story of Marla Olmstead, the four year old girl whose paintings sell for thousands in America but who critics have labelled a fake.

My Kid Could Paint That (12a)is showing at the Curzon Soho in London

Sam Taylor-Wood
John talks to the photographer Sam Taylor-Wood, whose exhibition of photographs of people with cancer taken at the Maggie's Centre in Fife draws on her own experience of the disease. 

The exhibitionis at Downing Street until January and then tours the UK

Monica Ali's picks
Monica Ali picks some of her favourite books of the year:

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander
and Falling Man by Don DeLillo


Thursday 13 December
Mark Lawson presenting

Marc Forster
Khaled Husseini's novel The Kite Runner tells the story of a boyhood friendship in Afghanistan destroyed by jealousy and fear. A controversial new film adaptation of the book is released in the UK on Boxing Day, directed by Marc Forster. Mark Lawson talks to the director about the challenge of filming the book in light of current political and social unrest in the country.

The Kite Runner opens around the country on Boxing Day, certificate 12A

Best History Books of the Year
Lady Antonia Fraser picks her favourite history books of the year, encompassing revolutionary France, cavalier princes, the Second World War, and histories of history.

The Perilous Crown: Ruling France 1814-1848 by Munro Price
Red Princess: A Revolutionary Life by Sofka Zinovieff
Prince Rupert: The Last Cavalier by Charles Spencer
A History of Histories by John Burrow
Fateful Choices by Ian Kershaw

Jeff Wayne
In 1978 the producer and composer Jeff Wayne released his 96-minute composition The War of the Worlds, based on H G Wells's novel about the invasion of Britain by Martian fighting machines. Richard Burton's distinctive contribution brought huge success to the project, making it one of the biggest-selling CDs in history. An arena stage version, featuring a ten-piece band and a 48-string orchestra and an animated hologram of Richard Burton, is currently on tour in the UK. Mark Lawson talks to Jeff Wayne about his iconic creation.

Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of The Worlds is available as a double CD on Columbia Records. http://www.thewaroftheworlds.com/
The tour continues tomorrow in Sheffield before moving on to Nottingham, Bournemouth, and Brighton, and finishing at the O2 Arena in London on 22 December

Christmas comes early for the Tate galleries…
As Damien Hirst announces he will give four major works to the Tate galleries, Mark Lawson talks to Tate Director Nicholas Serota about what the gift will mean.


Wednesday 12 December
Mark Lawson presenting


Jerry Seinfeld
The comedian Jerry Seinfeld wrote and starred in one of the most successful sitcoms on US television, Seinfeld, which ran for nine years. Jerry Seinfeld has now released his first film, Bee Movie, an animated film for adults and kids. The film's been four years in the making and came as a result of a two-word gag to Steven Spielberg. Mark Lawson talks to the comedian about bees, sequels and early resistance to his sitcom.

Bee Movie opens across the country on Friday, cert U

Youth Without Youth
It's been ten years since the release of the last film directed by Francis Ford Coppola. This week he returns with Youth Without Youth, a love story set before the Second World War, an ambitious meditation on time and the relation between human memory and identity. Adam Mars Jones joins Mark Lawson to reveal what he made of it.

Youth Without Youth is released nationwide on Friday, cert 15 

Sarah Phelps
Timothy Spall, Tom Hardy and Sophie Okonedo head an all-star cast in a new television adaptation of Oliver Twist. Mark Lawson meets its writer, Sarah Phelps, who worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company before becoming a senior writer on EastEnders.

Oliver Twist begins on Tuesday 18 December at 8.00pm on BBC1 

Once More With Feeling
Music critic Rupert Christiansen discusses his new collection of hymns and carols, and looks at their enduring emotional appeal.

Once More With Feeling is out now in hardback


Tuesday 11 December
John Wilson presenting

Dustin Hoffman
John Wilson talks to Dustin Hoffman about method acting, and working at 70, as his new childrens film Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium opens this week.

Mr Magorium's Wonder Emporium is in cinemas from Friday, certificate U.

Led Zeppelin
Paul Morley on Led Zeppelin's hugely anticipated reunion gig at the O2 Arena last night

We Own the Night
Antonia Quirke reviews a cinematic tale of drugs and crime in 70s New York, starring Joaquin Pheonix and Robert Duvall.
We Own the Night is in cinemas from Friday, certificate U.

Harold Pinter's Archive
Jamie Andrews on the British Library's acquisition of the literary archive of Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter

Art Market 2007
John Wilson discusses new trends in the buying and selling of art with Godfrey Barker and Helen Newman of Sotheby's


Monday 10 December
Mark Lawson presenting

Doris Lessing
In Stockholm this evening the presentation of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature will take place. The veteran novelist Doris Lessing, author of The Grass is Singing and The Golden Notebook, will be officially awarded the prize, but at the age of 88 has decided not to make the journey. In an exclusive interview recorded in her London home this afternoon, Mark Lawson talks to the writer of more than 30 novels about her books, and the moment she found out she'd won the £950,000 prize.

It's A Wonderful Life
As classic Christmas-time movie It's A Wonderful Life is re-released in the cinema in a newly restored version, critic Stephen Armstrong trawls the TV and film archives to examine the huge impact the film has had on writers, directors and writers, resulting in countless references in popular culture from The Simpsons to Star Trek.

It's A Wonderful Life is released nationwide on Friday 14 December, cert U, and is widely available on DVD

Enchanted
Disney's latest movie offering combines hand-drawn animation, computer generated effects and live-action to collide the characters of a classic fairytale into life in modern-day New York City. The critics Sarah Crompton and Larushka Ivan-Zadeh join Mark Lawson to offer their verdict.

Enchanted is released nationwide on Friday 14 December, cert PG

Friday 7 December
Kirsty Lang presenting

Karlheinz Stockhausen RIP
Kirsty Lang and composer & sound-artist Scanner reflect on the life and achievements of Karlheinz Stockhausen, the prolific German composer - whose death has just been announced - and hear from a Front Row interview with Stockhausen himself, in 2005, in which he declared how much he adored music-boxes…

Noughts & Crosses
In a story inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses has been adapted for the stage and directed by former RSC Associate Director Dominic Cooke. Set in a in a racially segregated world where the powerful black Crosses rule the lower class white Noughts, the production tells the tale of Sephy, a Prime Minister's daughter, and Callum, the son of a terrorist. Joining Kirsty to review the play is Andrew Dickson, author of The Rough Guide To Shakespeare.

Noughts & Crosses will be at The Civic Hall, Stratford-upon-Avon until 2 February 2008.

Penguin Café Orchestra
The Penguin Café Orchestra, one of the most unusual bands in British music, was created by musician Simon Jeffes after he had a vision brought on by an attack of food poisoning. He led the band and composed the music - to be played on an eclectic combination of strings, classical guitar, harmonium, South American cuatro, even a telephone and a rubber-band. The band went their separate ways after Jeffes died, but now, ten years after his death, have reformed for a special short set of performances. They talk to Kirsty Lang about their distinctive music, and about life without Simon.

The Penguin Café Orchestra play Union Chapel, London, on 11, 12 and 13 December.

Mark Thomas
Kirsty Lang talks to political comedian Mark Thomas about his latest project, which focuses on The Serious Organised Crime & Police Act 2005, wherein people who wish to make a political statement or protest within the area around the Houses of Parliament have to apply to the police for written permission several weeks beforehand.

Serious Organised Criminal is at The Venue, Leicester Square, London, until 15 December. A DVD of the live show is released on 10 December

Muirne Kate Dineen
Kirsty Lang meets Muirne Kate Dineen, the only woman in the world to have mastered the ancient art of 'araash,' or - as it's known in English - Indian fresco painting. In her studio, Kate demonstrates the working process, which requires hard, physical labour, and tells Kirsty that this is the only way to create the depth of colour for which she strives.

Muirne Kate Dineen's Colourwallah is at the Robert Sandelson Gallery, London until 18 January 2008.


Thursday 6 December
Kirsty Lang presenting


He Was A Quiet Man
Christian Slater dons prosthetic teeth and spectacles to play disgruntled office worker Bob Maconel in He Was A Quiet Man. Bob dreams of killing his co-workers in a shooting spree, but ends up an accidental hero when he finishes off the equally murderous co-worker who beats him to it. Film critic Adam Smith joins Kirsty to talk about the film which also stars William H Macy and Elisha Cuthbert.

He Was A Quiet Man is released in cinemas nationwide from 7 December.


Dinaw Mengestu
This year's Guardian First Book Award has been won by the Ethiopian-American writer, Dinaw Mengestu, for his novel Children of the Revolution, a story of African immigrant experience in the United States. Dinaw Mengestu talks to Kirsty Lang about the inspiration for his book and how taping interviews with his own family members sparked off the writing process.

Children of the Revolution by Dinaw Mengestu is published in paperback by Jonathan Cape.

Government Art Collection
The Government Art Collection is a British cultural resource, which operates within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Works of art from the Collection are displayed in British Government buildings both in the United Kingdom and around the world, and play a role in promoting British art and culture across diverse and international environments. Today the Public Catalogue Foundation launches the Government Art Collection catalogue. It’s the first time the whole Collection - of over 2,500 oil paintings - has been put together in a catalogue, which will be available to the public to buy. The catalogue aims to improve public access to these paintings and provide more of an understanding about how the Collection works, how the paintings are used, and where the paintings are hung. Art critic William Feaver talks Kirsty Lang through just some of the paintings in the Collection for Front Row.

The Public Catalogue Foundation, Government Art Collection catalogues are available from The PCF Organisation

Watch the skies!!
To mark the 30th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, a special DVD boxed-set is being released, containing all three versions of the film. In the story, a five-note theme is used by the aliens as a means of communicating with the humans on earth, and this little theme has become iconic - even people who never saw the film could probably identify it. Astrophysicist Seth Shostak, of the S.E.T.I. Institute in America (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) and musicologist Allan Moore explore the history of music's association with space - and compare science-fact with human-fiction.

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, a special 30th anniversary edition, is available on DVD now.

Cory Arcangel
New York-based artist Cory Arcangel is exhibiting his newly commissioned two-screen installation at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland. The work, entitled 'a couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould' rescores JS Bach's Goldberg Variations by splicing together nearly 2000 clips of amateur musicians taken from video sharing websites. Each note of the score jumps between individual clips of different musicians on instruments ranging from guitars to keyboards and tubas.

'a couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould' can be seen at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland from 7 December.


Wednesday 5 December
Mark Lawson presenting

Othello
With film stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello and Ewan McGregor as Iago, the Donmar Warehouse's revival of 'Othello' was never likely to have trouble selling tickets - but is it any good? Mark Lawson and novelist Justin Cartwright review the production, which - unusually for Shakespearian productions nowadays - avoids a modern setting and interpretation, restoring the play instead to its 17th century origins.

'Othello' is at the Donmar Warehouse in London until 23rd February 2008. Due to demand the production is sold out but there are some seats available, from 10.30am on the day, for each performance. There are also standing-spaces. Further details via  The Donmar Warehouse

Colm Toibin on Joseph Conrad
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the acclaimed novelist, Joseph Conrad, author of memorable classics such as 'The Secret Agent' and 'Heart of Darkness'. Mark Lawson is joined by the Irish novelist Colm Toibin to pay tribute to Conrad's life and work. Together they reassess Conrad's significance to the English literary landscape, and examine his influence on Toibin's own writing.

Colm Toibin and Salley Vickers discuss Joseph Conrad's work at the National Portrait Gallery, London, on Thursday 6th December at 2pm.

Education and the Arts
Director Sir Richard Eyre - who was also head of the National Theatre for ten years - has warned of cultural 'apartheid' in education, and says that schools and the BBC are failing to inspire the next generation to have a love of culture. To discuss this, Front Row brings Richard Eyre together with Sir Christopher Frayling, Chairman of the Arts Council and Rector of the Royal Academy of Arts.

The Writer's Brush
Visual art works by authors as varied as Joseph Conrad, Catherine Cookson, Henrik Ibsen and Dylan Thomas all appear in a new book called The Writer's Brush. Author Donald Friedman has tracked down paintings, sketches and drawings by more than 200 writers. Some trained as artists and illustrated their own books and others are keen amateurs. For Front Row critic Peter Kemp reviews the book, and compares how the paintings match up to the prose.    View The Writer's Brush Gallery

The Writer’s Brush, Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers . Author Donald Friedman. Essays by John Updike and William H Gass. Published by Mid-List Press distributed in the UK via Random House. Price £25.00 hardback, 457 pages  (ISBN 13: 978-0-922811-76-2).

Column: Cultural Characters
Stephen Armstrong reflects on tv characters who have become cultural shorthand: Jim from The Royle Family-the classic lazy middle-aged man; Smashie & Nicey to advertise tax-free charitable giving; and Reginald Perrin to illustrate the news story of a man who faked his own death


Tuesday 4 December
Mark Lawson presenting

Southland Tales

Directed by Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), the film Southland Tales is set in the futuristic landscape of Los Angeles on 4th July 2008 as it stands on the brink of social, economic and environmental disaster. Boxer Santaros (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) is an action star who's stricken with amnesia. His life intertwines with Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Geller), an adult film star developing her own reality television project, and Ronald Taverner, a Hermosa Beach police officer who holds the key to a vast conspiracy. Film critic Jason Solomons reviews for Front Row.

Southland Tales opens on Friday 7th December, certificate 15.

Mark Wallinger
Mark Lawson speaks to the winner of this year's Turner Prize, the artist Mark Wallinger, who has won the award for his work, State Britain, a replica of the one-man anti-war protest in Parliament Square.

 Tate: Turner Prize 2007

Look behind you!!!
For some people, the Christmas Panto is a timeless entertainment: the storyline unchanging through the decades and as timeless and well-known as the characters within it - and many of the jokes, too, for that matter! But not everyone feels that way. Stephen Fry has reworked "Cinderella" for the Old Vic, playwright Jonathan Harvey has scripted a new version of "Jack & the Beanstalk" for the Barbican Theatre, and fellow-playwright Mark Ravenhill wrote an updated take on "Dick Whittington", last year. (Oh no they didn't! Oh yes they did!!). Mark Lawson discusses the pros and cons of updating pantos with Jonathan Harvey and Mark Ravenhill - and listeners should feel free to boo or hiss, if they want to…

Jonathan Harvey's new version of Jack & the Beanstalk is at the Barbican Theatre, London until 12th January.

Stephen Fry's new version of Cinderella is at the Old Vic Theatre, London, until 20th January (and will be reviewed in Front Row on Monday, 10th December).

High School Musical 2
Will Disney be able to recapture the phenomenal success of its hit television film, High School Musical, with a new sequel? Novelist Matt Thorne gives his verdict on the latest instalment and he casts an eye across the myriad merchandise products available, including your very own High School Musical locker.

High School Musical 2 is out now on DVD.

TV Docs Minus the Music
Mark Lawson finds out about the latest TV technology which allows viewers to switch off background music when watching documentaries. Is this a welcome development or a body-blow to the creative art of the documentary maker? Natural history TV director Stephen Moss and critic Chris Dunkley battle it out.

The Nature of Britain is on BBC One on Wednesday 5th December at 9pm accompanied as usual by music – and viewers with the red button can choose the music free version.


Monday 3 December
Mark Lawson presenting

The Golden Compass
Mark Lawson & novelist A.N. Wilson discuss the film version of The Northern Lights, the first book of Philip Pullman's Carnegie Award winning trilogy, His Dark Materials. The trilogy is set in a world that's similar to ours in some ways - with London and Oxford and its colleges, but very different in others: witches rule the Northern skies, armoured-bears rule the Arctic regions, and every human is psychically-connected to an animal-spirit, their dæmon, which goes everywhere with them. The film - which stars Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman - takes the American name of the book, The Golden Compass, and tells the story of young Lyra, brought up in Jordan College, Oxford, who is given an Alethiometer, or golden compass, a device that tells not direction nor time, but the truth…

The Golden Compass is released nationwide on Wednesday 5 December, certificate PG.

Ralph Vaughn-Williams
Mark Lawson talks to Tony Palmer, director of a new feature-length documentary which charts the life and career of the acclaimed composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams. The film examines Vaughan-Williams's role as an important collector of folk music and song, and, crucially, his place as the pre-eminent composer to give Englishness musical expression.

O Thou Transcendent is screening at the Barbican in London on Wednesday 5 December. A DVD will be available and the film will also be shown on News Year's Day on Channel Five at midday.

The Spice Girls
Amy O'Brian, music writer for the Vancouver Sun newspaper, talks to Mark Lawson about the Spice Girls' reunion world tour, which began on Sunday with a concert in Vancouver. They were a huge musical phenomenon in the 90s - but since splitting up, their solo careers have had mixed fortunes. It's been eight years since they were last onstage together, they're all now in their thirties and four of them are mothers - was their opening performance a disappointment or a revelation?

For tour date information: http://www.spicegirls.co.uk/spice_girls_tour.htm

Turner Prize
As actor and director Dennis Hopper gets ready to present this year's Turner Prize, John Wilson reports for Front Row and asks him about his interest in art, and his love of painting and photography.

Gibson Guitar Robot
Mark Lawson goes to the launch of the Gibson Les Paul Robot - the first self-tuning guitar - to find out whether it's just another gadget, or one giant step for rock-kind.


November

Friday 30 November
Mark Lawson presenting

The Magic Flute

This week sees the arrival of 3 adaptations of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Kenneth Branagh has set his new film version of the opera in the trenches of the WWI, with a libretto by Stephen Fry; a new theatrical production at the Young Vic in London relocates the opera to a South African township; and one of the CDs in trumpeter Guy Barker's new double CD The Amadeus Project is loosely woven around the names featured in The Magic Flute. The opera critic Tom Service has tried out all three and comes in to give his verdict.

Kenneth Branagh's film The Magic Flute opens at cinemas across the country today, cert PG

The Magic Flute - Impempe Yomlingo is in rep at the
 Young Vic

Guy Barker's CD The Amadeus Project is out on the GlobalMix label

Jilly Cooper on Barbara Pym
Novelist Barbara Pym was a favourite of Philip Larkin, who said he preferred her books to Jane Austen. Such praise, however, wasn't enough to save her from obscurity and her books have often been out of print. But as her novel Jane and Prudence is re-issued, Jilly Cooper tells Mark Lawson why she loves this overlooked writer.

Jane and Prudence is out now in paperback

The Killing of John Lennon
I was nobody until I killed the biggest somebody on Earth', says the character playing Mark Chapman in a new film The Killing of John Lennon. The film is an imagined recreation of the murder of John Lennon by Chapman outside Lennon's Dakota apartment in New York in 1980. The film has been meticulously researched and is filmed in the exact locations where the real-life events unfolded. The writer Ray Connolly, who was due to interview Lennon on the day he died, joins Mark Lawson to review the film.

The Killing of John Lennon opens at cinemas across the country next Friday, cert 15

60th Birthday Tribute: David Mamet
One of America's most distinctive & successful playwrights, David Mamet, turns 60 today and in tribute, actor Kerry Shale plays the characters Glen, Garry & Ross from Mamet's play of the same name.

Premiership Managers' Silence
Following coverage in certain BBC TV programmes, there are at least 3 Premiership football managers who now refuse to give interviews to the BBC. At a time when the managers themselves are making headlines, Mark Lawson asks BBC's Director of Sport, Roger Mosey, how concerned he is about the increasing unwillingness of such high-profile individuals to allow the BBC access not only to interviews but to press conferences


Thursday 29 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Literary letters - Ted Hughes and Noël Coward
The poet Tom Paulin and biographer Brenda Maddox join Mark Lawson to discuss two recent volumes of literary letters, collections from two very different English writers – Ted Hughes and Noël Coward.

Letters of Ted Hughes, published by Faber, and The Letters of Noël Coward, published by Methuen Drama, are both out now in hardback

The Nines
The Nines isn't so much a film - it's three. Featuring overlapping characters and stories, The Nines stars Ryan (Smokin' Aces) Reynolds as - variously - an actor under house arrest following a drink and drugs binge; a screenwriter whose new show is about to be bought by a TV network and a video game designer stranded when his car breaks down. The writer and academic Roger Luckhurst gives his verdict to Front Row.

The Nines, certificate 15, is released around the country tomorrow

Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti
Fred Claus is the story of sibling rivalry between two brothers - the saintly Nicholas Claus and his wayward older brother Fred. After a stint in jail, Fred travels to the North Pole to earn some money working in his brother's toy shop where his bad boy antics eventually threaten to ruin Christmas. Mark Lawson talks to Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti who star as Fred and Santa respectively.

Fred Claus is in cinemas nationwide from Friday 30 November, cert PG

Wednesday 28 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Viva La Diva
When Darcey Bussell danced her final ballet earlier this year, her retirement made the headlines. But six months later, she is back on stage alongside singer Katherine Jenkins. Together they’ve devised and written a show – Viva La Diva - celebrating the stars of cinema and theatre that inspired them in their respective careers. As well as doing what they’re famous for, the two step into new territory with Bussell singing and Jenkins dancing. Critic Sarah Crompton was at the start of the show’s nationwide tour and offers her verdict.

NB: The  present tour has sold out but tickets are available for the show's 2008 tour:
02 May Belfast Odyssey 028 9073 9074
05 May Cardiff Intl Arena 029 2022 4488
07 May Birmingham NIA Academy 0870 909 4144
08 May Sheffield Hallam FM Arena 0114 256 5656
10 May London O2 Arena 0871 984 0002
14 May Manchester MEN Arena 0844 847 8000

The Oxford Middleton Project
Thomas Middleton is our greatest playwright after Shakespeare, says Gary Taylor, editor of the new Oxford Middleton Collected Works, and yet he is little known outside literary circles. Professor Taylor joins Mark Lawson to discuss the Renaissance writer, whose huge output includes The Revenger's Tragedy, A Game at Chess, and parts of Macbeth formerly attributed to Shakespeare.

The Collected Words of Thomas Middleton is published by Oxford University Press.

English Touring Theatre's  production of The Changeling continues until 1 December.

Memoirs
As American Senator Edward Kennedy announces a multimillion-dollar deal for his memoirs, Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, discusses some 'big names' who have yet to write theirs and some unusual cases where deals have been made but the books are yet to appear.

Sleeping and Dreaming
What happens when we close our eyes and drift off to sleep? The Wellcome Collection's new exhibition reveals that in fact, surprisingly little is understood about many aspects of sleeping. Dreams remain difficult to study, a truly effective sleeping tablet has yet to be developed and cures for certain sleep disorders still elude scientists. Perhaps this air of mystery is all the better for artists and writers - Henry Fuseli was fascinated by sleeping & dreaming and Robert Louis Stevenson claimed the story for Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came to him in a dream. Front Row sent doctor and writer Druin Burch along to test whether the exhibition kept him awake.

Sleeping and Dreaming opens at the   Wellcome Collection in London tomorrow and runs until 9th March

Screen Doubles
This week sees the release of a film telling the story of an American journalist kidnapped on the way to interviewing a spokesman for Al-Qaida in Pakistan and find himself being held hostage. Sounds like 'A Mighty Heart' which came out recently, but it is in fact a new film 'Infinite Justice'. Why is it that you wait ages for a film to come out on the subject of, say, Truman Capote, then two come along at once? Film critic Mark Eccleston attempts to fathom the copycat syndrome.

Infinite Justice opens across the country on Friday, cert 15


Tuesday 27 November
Kirsty Lang presenting

Donal MacIntyre
Kirsty Lang meets investigative journalist Donal MacIntyre whose latest project follows one of Britain's most dangerous crime families, headed by Dominic Noonan. MacIntyre explains why he describes the film as "a movie disguised as a documentary" and responds to the criticism that film glamorises real, serious crime.

A Very British Gangster is released in key cities from 7 December 2007, cert 15

The barcode tattoo
The lead assassin in a new film Hitman has '47' in barcode format tattooed onto the back of his head. Films including Alien III, 12 Monkeys and the TV series Dark Angel have featured the barcode tattoo. Front Row explores film-makers' fascination with those black-and-white stripes.

Hitman opens across the country on Friday, cert 15

The Portico Quartet
The contemporary jazz group The Portico Quartet introduce Kirsty Lang to the 'Hang', a flying saucer-shaped Swiss instrument sounding a bit like a steel drum that the group discovered at the 2004 Womad festival, and which can be heard on their debut CD Knee Deep in the North Sea.

The Portico Quartet's debut CD Knee Deep in the North Sea is out on the Babel label

Doubt
In 1960s America, a nun at a Catholic school accuses one of the priests of abusing a pupil. But are her suspicions well founded? And if not, can the priest ever hope to clear his name? John Patrick Shanley's enigmatic play about the complexities of truth and guilt ran for two years on Broadway, winning a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. As it transfers to London, theatre critic Matt Wolf gives his verdict.

Doubt: A Parable is at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn, London, until 12th January.


Monday 26 November
John Wilson presenting

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

In a new film Brad Pitt plays America's most famous and legendary outlaw. In The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, adapted from the novel by Ron Hansen, we follow Jesse James as he commits his trademark crimes against the banks and railroads while on the run from the law.

And we observe his association with his admirer, the 19-year-old Robert Ford, who ultimately took the life of the man who trusted him. Crime writer John Harvey reviews the film live.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford opens nationwide on Friday, cert 15

The Sports Book of the Year
The winner was announced today of the annual William Hill Sports Book of the Year, the world's richest sports literature prize. John Wilson talks to the broadcaster and judge John Inverdale, as well as the winner of the £20,000 prize.

The shortlisted books are:
Sir Bobby Charlton: the Autobiography, by Sir Bobby Charlton with James Lawton
Tommy's Honour by Kevin Cook
Up Pompey by Chuck Culpepper
Provided You Don't Kiss Me by Duncan Hamilton
Left for Dead by Nick Ward with Sinead O'Brien
Shane Warne: Portrait of a Flawed Genius by Simon Wilde

Julie Fowlis
Folk musician Julie Fowlis became the first Scottish Gaelic singer to win the BBC Radio 2 Folk Award in 2006. Julie talks to John Wilson about performing the songs she grew up with on her native North Uist in the Western Isles of Scotland and why at first she didn't want to perform at all.

Cuilidh by Julie Fowlis is out now on Shoeshine Records.
For full details of her ongoing tour, visit www.juliefowlis.com

Rock n Roll till I'm 25…
With the news that former Labour strategist Lord Birt has been hired by the troubled record label EMI to review the performance of its artists, the music journalist David Hepworth joins John Wilson to discuss the Rock n Roll work ethic.

The art of destruction
As artist James Cauty announces he will destroy a new painting if it isn't sold by Christmas, art critic Richard Cork reflects on what makes artists destroy their own work - is it about high standards, or just publicity seeking?

James Cauty's exhibition War Is Over begins at The Aquarium gallery in London on 30th November.


Friday 23 November
Kirsty Lang presenting

Michael Morpurgo
Former Children's Laureate, Michael Morpurgo, has just written a book about the Jewish musicians who were forced to perform Mozart violin concertos in Nazi concentration camps - and who had to watch in horror as their fellow prisoners were led off to their deaths.

Kirsty Lang talks to him about dealing with difficult subject-matters in children's fiction, and about other war-stories he has written - such as Private Peaceful which is currently being serialised on BBC Radio 2.

The Mozart Question is available now from Walker Books

Private Peaceful, read by Robson Green, is on Radio 2 on Friday evenings at 9.15, until 7th December

No Trumpets Needed, Michael Morgpurgo’s story which opens the Radio 4 series, Blake's Doors of Perception, marking the 250th anniversary of William Blake's birth; is on Monday 26th November, at 3.30pm. War Horse continues at the National Theatre in London

Talk To Me
Talk To Me, starring Don Cheadle, is the true story of the African American shock jock "Petey" Greene, an ex-con who talked himself into a job on Washington's WOL 1450 AM radio station.

Unafraid to speak the truth he became a legendary radio personality and voice for the black community at a turbulent time in Washington's history. Kirsty Lang talks to Gaylene Gould about the film which also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Martin Sheen.

Talk To Me opens in cinemas nationwide from 23 November, certificate 15.

The Complete Works of Thelonious Monk
Pianist and composer Thelonious Monk was one of the founders of be-bop. Famous for his angular playing style and dissonant harmonies, he was a legendary figure who wrote over seventy jazz standards. To mark what would have been Monk's ninetieth birthday this year, the Monk Liberation Front will play all of his works in a special performance at the London Jazz Festival.

Kirsty Lang talks to saxophonist Tony Kofi and pianist Jonathan Gee about their preparations for their six hour Monk marathon and why they decided to attempt it.

The Monk Liberation Front play The Complete Works Of Thelonius Monk on Sun 25 November from 4pm at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London.

Kindred Spirits
As EMI prepare to launch as assault on the charts with a specially selected group of children, known as Kindred Spirits, singing their version of Fix You by Coldplay, the comedian and broadcaster Danny Robins looks at the history of children’s choirs in pop.

Kindred Spirits the album is out on 10 December

Scotland adopts Venezualan Orchestra initiative
Following the success of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra's world tour - including a knockout performance at the BBC Proms - representatives from Scotland are in Venezuala today to sign an agreement to bring its methodology and philosophy to Scotland. Front Row reports.


Thursday 22 November
Kirsty Lang presenting

David McVicar
Kirsty Lang talks to the award-winning opera director David McVicar about his production of Britten's The Turn of the Screw, the unsettling tale of strange children and threatening ghosts, based on the novella by Henry James.

The Turn of the Screw has six performances at English National Opera (London Coliseum) from 26th November until 8th December

Rescue Dawn
Kirsty Lang and critic Chris Tookey review Rescue Dawn,  Werner Herzog's film based on the true story of a US Fighter pilot's struggle to survive after being shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War, starring Christian Bale

Rescue Dawn goes on general release on Friday 23rd November, certificate 12A

Portable Antiquities
Following the news that 300,000 archaeological finds have been reported in the first ten years of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Kirsty Lang talks to two of the people responsible: Duncan Pangborn (who found a Roman figurine of a horse and rider) and Adina Parnell (who found a 12th century figure of Christ) and discusses with Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, the importance of these discoveries and the online database where they're all being recorded.

TV series transplanting foreign customs and practices onto British people
In the coming weeks two television programmes explore what would happen if non-Asian British people were to live and love by Muslim and Asian values. The BBC2 show Arrange Me A Marriage attempts to match-make couples by asking friends and family to find potential suitors for the participants. On Channel 4, the as yet untitled reality TV show takes non-Muslims from Harrogate and asks them to live under Sharia law. Kirsty Lang talks to Aneela Rahman, presenter of Arrange Me A Marriage and reviews both series with journalist Alkarim Jivani.

Arrange Me A Marriage starts 22nd Nov at 8pm on BBC Two
The untitled reality series about Sharia law will begin on Channel 4 in the next few weeks


Wednesday 21 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Boy A and The Street
Two television dramas, Boy A and episode six of the The Street, portray the rehabilitation of men who killed as children. Mark discusses these films with tv critic Rachel Cooke and crime writer Dreda Say Mitchell.

Boy A is on Channel 4 on Monday 26 November
Episode Six of The Street is on BBC One at 9pm on Thursday 13 December

A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years 1917-1932
John Richardson talks to Mark Lawson about the third installment of his monumental biography of Picasso. Richardson explores the artist's relationships with Jean Cocteau, Andre Breton and his stormy marriage to first wife Olga.

A Life of Picasso Volume 3 is out now in hardback

Jesus Camp
Kate Saunders reviews the Oscar-nominated documentary Jesus Camp, about evangelical children at a Christian camp in North Dakota.

Jesus Camp (PG) is at the ICA in London from 23 November

Glengarry Glen Ross and Sold
Mark discusses Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet's stage drama about ruthless real estate salesmen, and ITV's new estate agent comedy series Sold with real-life estate agent Ed Mead of Douglas and Gordon.

Glengarry Glen Ross is at the Apollo Theatre in London's West End, booking until 12 January 08
Sold is on ITV on Thursdays

Tuesday 20 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Costa Book Awards
Front Row announces the 2007 Costa Book Awards shortlist. Judges on this year’s panel included actress and writer Helen Lederer; author and lyricist Polly Samson; writer and columnist Danny Danziger and broadcaster and journalist Julia Somerville. Whittled down from five hundred and fifty three entries, the twenty shortlisted works are split into five categories: Novel, First Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children’s Book.

Mark Lawson discusses the shortlist with critic Alex Clark.

Winners in the five categories, who each receive £5,000, will be announced on Thursday 3rd January 2008. See the shortlist here

Charles M Schulz
As Charles M Schulz's comic strip Peanuts is reprinted in chronological order for the first time, Mark Lawson asks David Michaelis, author of Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography, what the strip can tell us about the life of its creator. The Complete Peanuts, 1950-52 and 1953-54 are out now published by Canongate. Further editions will follow.

Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography by David Michaelis is out now in the USA

The Company
Mark Lawson and author Charles McCarry review The Company, a TV drama series based on Robert Littell's gritty best-selling novel about the CIA. Starring Alfred Molina, Michael Keaton and Chris O'Donnell, the series spans a thirty-year period - from the Cold War up to the first Gulf War - featuring genuine events and characters.

Mark Lawson and former CIA agent and bestselling spy novelist Charles McCarry

The Company begins on BBC 2 on Saturday, 24th November, at 9.40pm

No Music Day
Music producer Bill Drummond has launched No Music Day, attempting to have no music played, sung, whistled or listened to throughout the day on Wednesday 21st November. He explains his motivation to Mark Lawson, and then Mark goes with him as he attempts to persuade Jeremy Vine, HMV's Gennaro Castaldo, and cellist Steven Isserlis to join his campaign… 

No Music Day is November 21st.


Monday 19 November
Mark Lawson presenting


Sleuth
Mark Lawson is joined by Barry Norman to discuss Sleuth, the new version of Michael Caine's 1972 classic. Harold Pinter has written the screenplay, Kenneth Branagh directs, and Michael Caine stars in the role originally played by Laurence Olivier whilst Jude Law plays Caine's original character.

Sleuth is released Friday, certificate 15

Alfie Boe
Discovered washing cars in Blackpool, Alfie Boe went on to win a Tony Award for his role in Baz Luhrmann's Broadway production of La Boheme, before being signed as a solo artist to EMI Classics. His new album is La Passione.

La Passione is out now

Love Letters
In Four Letter Word, 40 celebrated writers explore the potence and power of a neglected genre: the love letter. Mark discusses the collection with contributors Lionel Shriver, Hari Kunzru and Damon Galgut

Four Letter Word is published in hardback

Come Fly with Me
Tomorrow night's episode of Spooks is high drama onboard a plane and is filmed in the same cabin replica built for Paul Greengrass' film United 93. Film critic Adam Smith considers cinema's penchant for mile high action.

Spooks is on BBC1 on Tuesdays at 9pm


Friday 16 November
Kirsty Lang presenting

Katherine Jenkins

Kirsty Lang talks to classical crossover superstar Katherine Jenkins, whose new CD Rejoice is out now. Born in Neath, South Wales and winner of BBC Welsh Choirgirl of the Year in 1993, Katherine became the only person ever to simultaneously hold 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions in the Classical charts. Aged only 26, she has already out-sold Maria Callas and sung for 70,000 people at the Millennium Stadium. Katherine joins Kirsty to talk about performing for the troops in Afghanistan, the role model of Vera Lynn and her up coming UK tour with Darcy Bussell in a show called Viva la Diva.

Katherine Jenkins' new CD Rejoice is out now on Universal

Desperately Seeking Susan
In time-honoured tradition, the West End is once again looking to Hollywood for inspiration. Hot on the heels of the hit adaptation of Hairspray, the latest offering is a reworking of the 1985 film Desperately Seeking Susan, without Madonna, but set to the music of Blondie. The musical opened last night and the rock critic Miranda Sawyer went for Front Row.

Desperately Seeking Susan is at the Novello Theatre in London

Millscapes
The town of Oldham was transformed by cotton. At the peak of production in the early years of the 20th century, a third of the spinning of cotton in England was carried out in over 300 mills in Oldham alone. As well as changing people lives, these huge architectural structures changed the landscape of the North West of England forever. A new exhibition at Gallery Oldham reveals how those changes were recorded by artists from the early 19th century to the present day. Front Row went along to exhibition and talked to the curator Stephen Whittle, Sir Neil Cossons, the former chairman of English Heritage, who has a passion for industrial history, and two of the artists – Liam Spencer and Helen Clapcott - whose paintings are featured in the exhibition.

Millscapes: Art of the Industrial Landscape is at Gallery Oldham from 17 November 2007 – 2 February 2008
Images from the Millscapes exhibition can be seen here

Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson, director of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums talks to Kirsty Lang about his latest film, The Darjeeling Limited, starring Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman as three brothers on a whimsical journey across India.

The Darjeeling Limited (15) is out on Friday 23rd November


Thursday 15 November
Mark Lawson presenting

The Blair Years
Times journalist David Aaronovitch backed Tony Blair over the Iraq war and is considered by some a Blair loyalist. BBC1's new three part series, The Blair Years, sees him interview the former Prime Minister about his time in office, focussing on his relationship with Gordon Brown, his decision to go to war in Iraq, and his own religious beliefs. Former ministers and civil servants contribute their own, often frank opinions too. But is it too soon to put The Blair Years in perspective? Lord Owen and Clare Short, former Secretary of State for International Development under Blair, give their verdicts to Mark Lawson.

The Blair Years, a three part series, begins on BBC1 at 10.15 pm on Sunday 18 November.

The Omid Djalili Show
Iranian Comic Omid Djalili talks to Mark Lawson about terrorism, multiculturalism, death, sex and religion - all topics that he covers in stand up routines and sketches in The Omid Djalili Show which starts this Saturday Night on prime time television.

The Omid Djalili Show starts on Saturday 17 November at 9.30pm on BBC1

A Time To Keep
Playwright David Edgar wrote his first Community Play for the town of Dorchester in 1985. This year sees him working on his fifth, A Time To Keep, set in 1804 as the West Country town faces the threat of Napoleonic invasion. Mark Lawson went to Dorchester to meet the cast and crew at the first full dress rehearsal, where David Edgar explained the attraction of working with 130 community actors, director Jon Oram, and three generations of a family taking part.

A Time To Keep starts on Friday 16 November and runs until 1 December at The Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester.


Wednesday 14 November
John Wilson presenting

Ray Winstone
As motion-capture epic Beowulf opens around the country, Ray Winstone - known for roles in Sexy Beast, Scum and The War Zone - tells John Wilson about what it's like to see yourself on screen in a very different body from the one you inhabit day to day.

Beowulf opens around the country on Friday, certificate 12A.

London Transport Museum Re-opens
After a £22m refurbishment lasting two years, the London Transport Museum re-opens its doors to the public next week. John Wilson dons his hard hat to take a sneak preview with the former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson as the final preparations are put into place.

The London Transport Museum opens to the public on 22 November.

Vic Reeves
The comedian talks to John Wilson about his new six part series for BBC Radio Two, Vic Reeves's House Arrest, which sees him reunited with former comedy partner Bob Mortimer.

Vic Reeves's House Arrest begins on BBC Radio Two on Saturday at 1pm.

Ira Levin
Professor John Sutherland reflects on the life and writing career of Ira Levin, the novelist who created The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby, who has died.

Cranford
Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Imelda Staunton lead the society of C19th ladies at the heart of Cranford, a new five-part television drama for Sunday nights. Adapted from three novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford is set in the 1840s just as the Cheshire town is facing the advent of modernity and technological change. The railway is fast approaching from Manchester and a new Young Doctor (played by Simon Woods) arrives with revolutionary medical methods and stirring good looks. Kathryn Hughes reviews.

Part One of Cranford is at 9pm on BBC1 on Sunday 18 November.


Tuesday 13 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs
Last time the treasures from Tutankhamun's tomb were displayed in the UK, in 1972, they attracted 1.7 million visitors to the British Museum. Novellist Esther Freud recalls attending that exhibition as she joins historical writer Tom Holland to review the new show of 130 Egyptian treasures in Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs.

Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs is at the O2 in London from Thursday 15 November until 30 August 2008

Anti-terrorist Architecture
Tomorrow the Home Office will publish a report on security in crowded places. Architects will be encouraged to design buildings which will include measures to protect large numbers of people in public spaces against the threat of car and lorry bombs. Mark Lawson talks to architecture critic Hugh Pearman - about the anti-terrorist precautions that can be implemented in designs.

Anne Stevenson
Poet Anne Stevenson was born in Cambridge and grew up in America, but for the last forty years has made her home in Britain. She credits Yeats and Eliot with teaching her how to listen, and Elizabeth Bishop with teaching her how to look. Now a major American literary foundation has recognised her work with a lifetime achievement award worth £100,000. Stevenson gives her reaction to Mark Lawson in tonight's programme and reflects on a writing career spanning more than half a century.

http://www.lannan.org/

Drugs Films
As an unusually high number of films about or related to the use of narcotics are released, Front Row considers why the subject is so popular with film makers, the differing types of 'drug film', and what can and can't be depicted. Mark Lawson discusses all this with David Cooke, Director of the British Board of Film Classification, and film critic Mark Ecclestone.

American Gangster (18) and Weirdsville (15) are released 16 November.
Cocaine Cowboys (18) and Shrooms (18) are released 23 November.


Monday 12 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Strictly Come Dancing
Recent results in BBC One's entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing have seen a conflict between the views of the expert judges and those of the voting public. Some suggest audience votes are about popularity rather than skill on the dance floor. Mark Lawson talks to Jon Beazley, Controller of BBC Entertainment Production and Mark Frith, Editor-in-Chief, Heat Magazine about their views of the events and how programme makers deal with tensions of this kind.

Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One, Saturday 5.50pm

Sinead O'Connor
The controversial Irish singer Sinead O'Connor's world tour brings her to London tonight, and before going on stage Mark Lawson talks to her about musical collaborations, reports of her retirement and the mental and physical difficulties she's faced in the last five years.

Sinead O'Connor is at the   Royal Festival Hallin London tonight, before moving on to Paris, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and rounding off the tour in Dublin on Sunday.

Her latest album Theology is out now.  Visit  
Sinead's Website

Napoleon
A new television series Heroes and Villains portrays key moments in the lives of historical warriors, and this evening Tom Burke takes the title role as Napoleon. Mark Lawson delivers a snapshot history of Napoleon portrayals from Marlon Brando and Herbert Lom, to Simon Russell-Beale and Arthur Lowe .

Heroes and Villains: Napoleon is on BBC ONE tonight at 9 o'clock

Brick Lane
When filming began on the adaptation of Monica Ali's controversial novel Brick Lane, protesters from within the Bangladeshi community threatened to burn copies of Ali's novel in the East London street from which it took its name. As Brick Lane arrives at cinemas around the country, Mark Lawson asks the Sunday Telegraph's Jenny McCartney whether the film merits the controversy it ignited.

Brick Lane, certificate 15, is released around the country on Friday.


Friday 09 November
Kirsty Lang presenting

Dan Castellaneta
The voice of Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta, swaps primetime TV for a tiny pub stage in North London to star in the comedy revue The Bicycle Men, in which much fun is had at the expense of the French, and cyclists. Dan talks to Kirsty Lang about his love of accents, the inspiration for Homer Simpson, and what it feels like to be one of the world's most famous voices, and yet never recognised.

"The Bicycle Men" is at The Kings Head Theatre in Islington, London until 2 December

Shutting Up Shop
In the 1970s photographer John Londei started taking pictures of small independent shops all over Britain. Often family-run and well-established in their communities, each shop had a character all of its own - and the proud proprietor, who always featured in the portrait, clearly relished their work. Londei retraced his steps in 2004 and revisited all the shops - but found that only 7 of the original 60 were still in business. His photos had captured the concept of the traditional local shop, just before its decline…

Now, with an exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery, London, and the simultaneous publication of a book of all the shop-photos, Kirsty Lang visits one of the surviving businesses, Freed's Ballet Shop, talking to John Londei and to manageress Michelle Attfield (who was in John's original portrait) and also to design expert Stephen Bayley about the decline of the small independent shop….

"Shutting Up Shop" is at The National Portrait Gallery, London until 3rd February 2008 - admission free. www.npg.org.uk

John Londei's book, "Shutting Up Shop", is available in hardback now

US Writers' Guild strike
Front Row gets an update on the American Writer's Guild strike from Variety magazine's Tim Gray and from comedy writer Bruce Vilanch, who has written for Bette Midler and Billy Crystal, among others.

Choosing a Piano
What qualities do concert pianists look for in the pianos they play? And which pianos are right for the music of which composers? Front Row followed Katherine Stott round Steinway's Hamburg factory as she chose a new piano for the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester to mark the 150th anniversary of the Halle Orchestra  - and asked David Owen Norris to reflect on the impact of centuries of modernisation on what we now call the piano.

The Bridgewater Hall's new piano will make its debut on 30th January 2008


Thursday 08 November
Kirsty Lang presenting

Silk
Based on the Alessandro Baricco's novel set in in 19th Century France, this is the story of a married silkworm smuggler, Herve Joncour, who travels to Japan to collect his cargo. While there he becomes obsessed with the concubine of a local baron. Without speaking the same language, they communicate through letters until war intervenes. Their unrequited love persists however, and Herve's wife Helene - played by Keira Knightley - begins to suspect. Kirsty Lang discusses the film with Larushka Ivan-Zadeh, film editor of the Metro.

Silk is in cinemas nationwide from 9th November, certificate 15

John Foulds's A World Requiem
On Remembrance Sunday at the Royal Albert Hall, and live on Radio 3, John Foulds's A World Requiem will be performed for the first time in 81 years - during the 1920s it held a special significance as it was performed each year by a huge massed choir as part of the British Legion's Festival of Remembrance. On Front Row Kirsty Lang discusses this long lost work and looks at John Foulds's colourful and controversial career.

John Foulds's A World Requiem is at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 11th November and will broadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 6.30pm

The Giant
Art critic Richard Cork reviews The Giant, Antony Sher's new stage play about the creation of Michelangelo's David, and his love for the teenage model that inspired the huge marble sculpture.

The Giant is on at the Hampstead Theatre in London until 1st December

Scotland's legendary architects
Two masters of European Modernism who have spent their careers working together and who made a major contribution to post-war British architecture are soon to celebrate their 80th birthdays. Through their long careers, Glasgow-based Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein designed churches, schools, colleges, hospitals, offices and housing, creating a whole new, pared down architecture which had a major global influence. Kirsty Lang talks to the inseparable duo.

An exhibition to celebrate the work of Andy MacMillan and Isi Metzstein  -  Gillespie, Kidd & Coia: Architecture 1956-87  is at The Lighthouse in Glasgow until 10th February 2008, with an accompanying book of the same name.


Wednesday 07 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Kwame Kwei-Armah
Mark Lawson speaks to the former Casualty actor Kwame Kwei-Armah about Statement of Regret, his new play about a Black policy think tank. Addressing issues of politics and division within the Black community, this is the third play written by Kwei-Armah.

Statement of Regret is at the National Theatre, London from 7 November.

Excellence in the Arts
Mark Lawson talks to James Purnell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and to Sir Brian McMaster, the former Edinburgh Festival director who has been asked by the DCMS to undertake a review that will report on how the system of public sector support for the arts can encourage excellence, risk-taking and innovation and how to establish a non-bureaucratic menthod to judge the quality of the arts in the future.  As part of this report an online consultation will run throughout November, asking the public for their views: 

Go to  www.culture.gov.uk

Conservative Arts Taskforce
Former director of the Barbican John Tusa discusses his report on arts policy that was commissioned by the Conservative Party.

Cecilia Bartoli
Singer Cecilia Bartoli discusses her CD inspired by the legendary nineteenth-century diva Maria Malibran, who Bartoli claims was opera's first real superstar.

Maria by Cecilia Bartoli is released on Decca on 12 November


Tuesday 06 November
Mark Lawson presenting

Into the Wild
Into The Wild is the fourth film directed by Sean Penn. It is based Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name and tells the true story of Christopher McCandless, a disaffected young man who walks into the Alaskan wilderness in the summer of 1992 to test the limits of his endurance. Mark Lawson discusses the film with Adam Mars Jones.

Into The Wild is released on Friday, certificate 15

Shoot the Puppy
Mark Lawson and Tony Thorne, head of the Language Centre at Kings College London, indulge in a thoughtshower - shooting the breeze and giving a helicopter-view of Tony's guide to contemporary jargon. The resulting conversation is horizontally-architected from the ground up, and very definitely NOT a wombat (waste of money, bandwidth and time).

Shoot The Puppy: a survival guide to the curious jargon of modern life, by Tony Thorne, is available in paperback from Penguin.

My Boy Jack
Twenty years ago, actor and writer David Haig was given a book about Rudyard Kipling - and immediately noticed he bore an uncanny resemblance to him. He started researching Kipling's life and the result was a stage play, My Boy Jack. He's now adapted it for television with himself playing Kipling and Daniel Racliffe as his son, Jack. Kipling was a devoted father but also fiercely patriotic - and in 1914 he used his national fame and influence to get his son a commission in the army, despite Jack's severe short-sightedness. Jack went to France just before his 18th birthday and after only three weeks at the Front, was killed. My Boy Jack explores the contradictions in Kipling's character - and his torture at the realisation of his part in Jack's fate. Mark Lawson talks to the actor and writer David Haig.

My Boy Jack is on ITV1 on November 11th.

An exhibition 'My Boy Jack', telling the story of Jack Kilpling's life and the Battle of Loos in 1915, is at the Imperial War Museum, London til 24 Feb 08 - free admission.


Miss Bollywood
Shilpa Shetty hit the headlines after her appearance in Celebrity Big Brother earlier this year. Her treatment at the hands of some of her housemates resulted in a diplomatic incident, questions in Parliament and a national debate about British attitudes to race. When she entered the Big Brother house, Shetty was already a well known Bollywood star. Now she makes her debut on the British stage in Miss Bollywood – The Musical. Mark Lawson discusses Miss Bollywood with writer and performer Rani Moorthy. 

Miss Bollywoodis at Manchester Opera House tonight and tours Cardiff, Bradford, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Birmingham, Cambridge and London between now and December 13th


Monday 05 November 2007
Mark Lawson presenting

Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington talks to Mark Lawson about playing the gangster Frank Lucas - whose heroin empire terrorised New York in the 1970s - in the film American Gangster.

American Gangster (18) is out on Friday 16 November.

Jim Davidson
Controversial comedian Jim Davidson confronts accusations of homophobia and racism and explains to Mark where he draws the line.

The Devil Rides Out Live DVD is released today and the tour runs until 2 December.

OJ Simpson Book
OJ Simpson (and ghostwriter) has produced a book called If I Did It - a fictional account of what might have happened if he had murdered his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. Mark discusses OJ's book with critic Matt Thorne.

If I Did It: Confessions of a Killer is out on the 8th November in hardback.

Harold Robbins and Alistair MacLean
Mark discusses the pulp fiction authors Harold Robbins (Never Love a Stranger) and Alistair MacLean (Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare) who were hugely popular in their day - Robbins sold more books than J K Rowling.

Harold Robbins: The Man Who Invented Sex by Andrew Wilson is out now in hardback. The film Fear is the Key is released on DVD.


Friday 02 November 2007
Kirsty Lang presenting

Interview
Steve Buscemi has written, directed - and stars in - a new film, Interview, in which he plays a fading political journalist who is sent to interview America's most popular soap actress, played by Sienna Miller. The only snag is, he's never seen anything she's done. Boyd Hilton, TV editor of Heat Magazine, has seen it and reviews it live.

Interview opens across the country today, cert 15

'He' sings 'her' songs
Amy Winehouse's single Valerie is a straight cover of the song by The Zutons, a lament to a departed (female) lover. This got David Quantick thinking about which singers and bands have altered the gender of the original lyrics when covering old songs, and which haven't. Including Sinead O'Connor's apparently male anatomy…

Writers Guild strike?
In the last 24 hours the negotiators for the screenwriters' union in Hollywood have announced that they are recommending a strike in a dispute over royalty payments. So if the Writers Guild of America does go on strike, what will the implications be in the US and the UK?

Launchpad
On 24th November, the most popular gallery in the Science Museum will re-open after a £4 million transformation. Launchpad is the largest interactive science gallery in the UK - aimed at 8 -14 year olds - and will be opening with 50 new interactive exhibits and devices built specifically for the gallery. Kirsty Lang went along for a sneak preview, and met up with Alex and Nick from the band, Franz Ferdinand, who joined her to look round the Sound Area.

Launchpad opens at the Science Museum in London on the 24th November

Thursday 01 November 2007
Kirsty Lang presenting

Kate Mosse
When the novelist and co-founder of the Orange Prize for Fiction delivered her last novel Labyrinth, she probably wasn't expecting it to rack up over a million sales. She has now published Sepulchre, a sequel to her medieval thriller, and she talks to Kirsty Lang about the curse and the benefit of being labelled with the Dan Brown tag.

Sepulchre by Kate Mosse is published in hardback by Orion.

The Lookout
In a sinister new thriller The Lookout, a promising young athlete's life is turned upside-down after a tragic accident. Endeavouring to maintain a normal life he gets a job in a bank where the consequences of his accident find him caught up in a violent heist. The thriller writer Dreda Say Mitchell reviews the film.

The Lookout is released across the country on Friday, cert 15.

The Arsonists
Written by the Swiss playwright Max Frisch in the 1950s, his parable about accommodating the very thing that will destroy you is given its first major UK revival since its Royal Court premiere in 1961, in a new translation by Alistair Beaton.

The Arsonists, Royal Court Theatre, London until December 15th

25 Years of Channel 4
Andrew Collins flicks through the Radio Times from 25 years ago and turns on the TV to see how the Channel 4 of today compares with the week of its launch a quarter of a century ago.

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