arts and design

Your guide to the best summer culture


The return of the big American stars…
Whether postponed by Covid or just ready to see Europe again, US pop big-hitters are striding our way this summer. Billie Eilish, fresh off a deliriously received North American tour and Coachella performance, will be here in June (3-26). Lady Gaga’s world tour finally arrives in London in July (29-30), bearing her Chromatica album (2020) and a brand new Top Gun-themed single, Hold My Hand. August promises Christina Aguilera (2-5 August) embracing her Latina roots, and next generation star Noah Cyrus (Miley’s younger sister, 10-14 August), who releases her own debut album on 15 July.

… and not forgetting British pop royalty
Release from the pent-up longing for live music continues apace with a triumvirate of homegrown stars on parade. Ed Sheeran’s spring/summer UK tour enters its second half, with multiple nights in stadiums in June (until 1 July), including a five-gig run at Wembley. Harry Styles, who has been at No 1 in the UK charts for six weeks, has a long-awaited new third album, Harry’s House; he plays his own vast stages in June (11-19). Be sure to catch his support act too, the superlative Mitski. Liam Gallagher, whose new album has just landed, has two huge solo gigs at Knebworth Park (3-4 July), echoing Oasis’s tenure there 25 years ago. Kitty Empire

Nish Kumar will perform at the Edinburgh festival.
Nish Kumar will perform at the Edinburgh festival. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian


Edinburgh festival fringe
The fringe is back – and once more overstuffed with goodies. Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder is a comic murder mystery musical by Olivier-winner Jon Brittain and Matthew Floyd Jones (of Frisky & Mannish). Rafaella Marcus’s Sap promises a queer urban fable about bisexuality, while Emily Aboud’s Bogeyman offers a ghost story inspired by the Haitian revolution. Untapped award-winners Ugly Bucket deliver a “techno-clown-funeral” to explore loss in Good Grief, Nouveau Riché’s Caste-ing vibrantly charts the experience of Black actresses, and there’s top new writing from Sami Ibrahim, Dipo Baruwa-Etti and Chris Bush at Paines Plough’s pop-up venue, Roundabout.

In comedy, there are bankable sets from Nish Kumar, Fern Brady, Ed Gamble, Nina Conti, Phil Wang, Tim Key and Stewart Lee, musical comedy from Flo and Joan, Michelle Brasier and Jonny & the Baptists, plus a chance to see viral stars Rosie Holt and Michael Spicer live. From 5-29 August; all dates, times and tickets at Holly Williams


Milton Avery at London’s Royal Academy
Gentle, unassuming, with his outstanding gift for colour and his simplified grace, Milton Avery (1885-1965) is a singular master of American art. A later starter at 40, he was almost 70 before he began painting the large-scale landscapes that made him famous: hymns to Connecticut in spring, Vermont in autumn, to spiralling firs, bright pebbles and clustering sheep. This long-awaited survey (15 July-18 October), the first in Europe, will also include his humorous portraits of family and friends: everything he loved in a poetry of paint. Laura Cumming


The Car Man, Royal Albert Hall
When Matthew Bourne’s radical rethinking of Bizet’s Carmen premiered in 2000, the critic Jack Tinker described it as a “humping, pumping, thumping fat hit”. Twenty years and several revivals later, there’s no reason to think that this new in-the-round production with 65 dancers and musicians will be anything other. With the action switched to a garage in smalltown America in the 1950s, where a charismatic drifter causes havoc, the work is one of Bourne’s best: sexy, thrilling and emotionally gripping (9-19 June). Sarah Crompton

The London Symphony Orchestra’s Trafalgar Square performance last August, conducted by Simon Rattle.
The London Symphony Orchestra’s Trafalgar Square performance last August, conducted by Simon Rattle. Photograph: Mark Allan


LSO in Trafalgar Square
Playing on a giant temporary stage in Trafalgar Square, the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Simon Rattle will perform free to an audience of thousands on Saturday 11 June, with cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason as guest star making his LSO live debut, and a world premiere, Faiya!, by Ayanna Witter-Johnson. Other music includes George Gershwin’s An American in Paris, Max Bruch’s Kol Nidre and Ernest Bloch’s Prayer from Jewish Life. Bring a picnic and a cushion (but no glass bottles). Fiona Maddocks


New female voices in cinema
With female directors taking the top prizes at the most recent Venice and Berlin film festivals – as well as Cannes 2021 – and films by women winning the best picture Oscar for the last two years, perhaps it’s time to look to the next generation of female voices in cinema. And on the strength of the summer’s releases, they are bold, unconventional and anything but polite.

Take Pleasure (17 June), the extraordinary, unflinching feature debut from Ninja Thyberg, which follows an ambitious Swedish adult movie actress as she works her way up through the US porn hierarchy. It’s eye-watering and eye-opening; a tough watch, but an utterly fearless piece of film-making. Greek director Jacqueline Lentzou’s engaging Moon, 66 Questions (24 June) is a gentler proposition but no less accomplished: it explores the estranged relationship between a daughter and her ailing father. Also recommended is Silent Land (22 July), the coolly Haneke-esque study of a perfect marriage in crisis from Polish director Aga Woszczynska. Wendy Ide


Rock/ Paper/ Scissors, Sheffield theatres
From 16 June to 2 July, all three Sheffield theatres – the Crucible, the Lyceum and the Studio – will come together to put on three new plays by Chris (Standing at the Sky’s Edge) Bush. The same cast will perform the interlinked but standalone dramas – about a scissor manufacturer and a family feud – simultaneously on the different stages, running between buildings between scenes, leaving one stage to arrive on another. Robert Hastie, Anthony Lau and Elin Schofield co-direct this theatrical first, the centrepiece of Sheffield theatres’ 50th-anniversary celebrations. Susannah Clapp

Paddy Considine in the HBO Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon.
Paddy Considine in the HBO Game of Thrones spinoff House of the Dragon. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy


Fantasy face-off
Winter is coming. Again! Game of Thrones fans should finally be able to get over “that” final season, thanks to the long-awaited arrival of HBO prequel House of the Dragon (22 August on Sky Atlantic/Now TV). Based on George RR Martin’s Fire & Blood, it’s set 200 years before the original saga, traces the history of House Targaryen, and is estimated to have cost $20m per episode (presumably for all those peroxide platinum wigs).

Breathing fire down its neck just 11 days later is Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series (2 September on Amazon Prime Video), subtitled The Rings of Power. Even pricier at $58m an episode, it brings JRR Tolkien’s “Second Age” of Middle-earth, millennia before the events of The Hobbit, to the screen for the first time. Comparisons between the two megabudget epics are inevitable. Will there be one TV show to rule them all? Michael Hogan


A summer of culture on London’s South Bank
There are plenty of cultural offerings to draw you Thames-ward this season. Grace Jones curating Meltdown (10-19 June) at the Southbank Centre was always going to be fabulous, and she has lined up Skunk Anansie, Dry Cleaning, Baaba Maal and Peaches. There are also loads of free events, from classical to electronic to “rave-jazz”, at the New Music Biennial (1-3 July).

The Hayward Gallery celebrates Black art and culture all summer, with its In the Black Fantastic exhibition of 11 contemporary artists (29 June-18 September). A weekender curated by Inua Ellams offers music, poetry, film and talks (15-17 July), while the Riverside Terrace stage hosts DJs, live music, and dancing (15 July-28 August). And the National Theatre’s open-air River Stage returns for five weekends (15 July-14 August), featuring the Hofesh Schecter Company, Manchester’s Home theatre and Johnny Woo and John Sizzle curating drag shows and DJs. Hot stuff! HW

Jadden Khaki in the Iranian film Hit the Road.
Jadden Khaki in the Iranian film Hit the Road. Photograph: TCD/Prod.DB/Alamy


Hit the Road
Not just one of the most accomplished feature debuts in recent memory, this superb Iranian road movie, which juggles comedy with an achingly sad subtext, is quite simply one of the finest films you’ll see this year. Its director, Panah Panahi, is the son of the acclaimed director Jafar Panahi, and was mentored by the late, great Abbas Kiarostami. But he is clearly a remarkable talent in his own right. The contained chaos of the story combines a covert commentary on life under a repressive regime with pre-revolution Iranian pop music, lip-syncing and a very funny running joke about a dog. In cinemas from 29 July. WI


Updated classics on stage
Richard Bean aims to repeat the smash-hit triumph of One Man, Two Guvnors with a new version of Sheridan’s The Rivals, set in 1940 and written with Oliver Chris. Jack Absolute Flies Again (2 July-3 Sept) is directed at the Olivier by Emily Burns and features among the cast Laurie Davidson and Caroline Quentin.

At the Donmar, Noma Dumezweni is the heroine of A Doll’s House – Part Two (10 June-6 Aug), Lucas Hnath’s sequel to Ibsen’s play, which, directed by James Macdonald, sees Nora facing the family on whom she slammed the door.

Emilia Clarke appears at the Harold Pinter in Anya Reiss’s 21st-century version of Chekhov’s The Seagull – pandemic-delayed from spring 2020 – starring with Tom Rhys Harries and Indira Varma, directed by Jamie Lloyd (29 June-10 Sept). At Edinburgh, Adura Onashile takes the title role in Liz Lochhead’s Scots version of Medea, directed by Michael Boyd at the Hub (10-28 August).

The RSC update not a play but their casting policy by giving the lead role in Richard III to Arthur Hughes, who has radial dysplasia affecting his right arm. This is not the first time a disabled actor has taken the role; in 2017 Mat Fraser starred in a Northern Broadsides production. But it is a first for Stratford, where Hughes can be seen, directed by Gregory Doran, from 23 June to 8 October. SC

Black Chapel, the 2022 Serpentine pavilion, designed by Theaster Gates.
Black Chapel, the 2022 Serpentine pavilion, designed by Theaster Gates. Photograph: © 2022 Theaster Gates Studio


Theaster Gates’s Serpentine pavilion
The Serpentine Gallery’s annual pavilion, which has been going since 2000, is usually designed by a leading architect. This year they have gone to an artist, the Chicago-based Theaster Gates, who has proposed a rounded, top-lit timber structure called Black Chapel, inspired by religious buildings and the historic pottery kilns in Stoke-on-Trent. It thus combines Gates’s longstanding interest in the craft of ceramics and working at the scale of buildings. Artists can be better than architects at temporary installations – more free and inventive with materials and ideas – so this year’s pavilion (open from 10 June to 16 October) could be a strong one. Rowan Moore


Vivian Maier at Milton Keynes Gallery
Vivian Maier is widely regarded as one of the great street photographers of 20th-century art, up there with Robert Frank and Brassaï. Yet her work was only rediscovered as late as 2007. Reclusive, employed as a nanny for 40 years, her images are snatched from the sidewalks of American cities – immigrants, infants, lunching ladies, blue-collar workers, people and places subtly observed by a photographer in disguise. About 150,000 negatives have so far been found, and this show (11 June-25 September) will include a huge selection, including the exceptionally elusive self-portraits. Expect to be amazed. LC


Baz Luhrmann has long been a polarising director, but one thing his critics and acolytes can agree on is that he doesn’t do things by halves. So expect the suitably excessive with his big, broad biopic of Elvis Presley, never himself the most subtle of stage presences. Played with dewy-eyed, pelvis-thrusting commitment by promising new star Austin Butler, Presley is a magnetic subject, given glittered, larger-than-larger-than-life treatment by Luhrmann’s high-kitsch film-making. And with Italian Eurovision rockers Måneskin on the soundtrack, the director’s taste for provocative anachronism is undimmed. In UK cinemas from 24 June. Guy Lodge

Double Bafta-winner Big Zuu returns to the screen this summer.
Double Bafta-winner Big Zuu returns to the screen this summer. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters


Big Zuu
Rapper-cum-chef Zuhair Hassan stole the show at the recent TV Baftas with two surprise wins – and a pair of hilariously unfiltered acceptance speeches. The west London whirlwind is now going to blow all over our screens. He not only returns for a third series of his cult cookery show Big Zuu’s Big Eats (July on Dave), but stars in trainer store sitcom Sneakerhead (June on Dave) and is a judge on foodie contest Hungry for It (7 June on BBC Three). Big up Big Zuu’s big summer. MH


A Little Life, Edinburgh international festival
Director Ivo van Hove adapts the celebrated novel by American author Hanya Yanagihara, published in 2015. Van Hove’s epic production follows four men, bound together by friendship, threatened by child abuse, self-harm, domestic violence and suicide, over more than 30 years. Ramsey Nasr stars as the central character, found as a baby in the rubbish and assaulted by a series of sadists; he won the Louis d’Or for his performance in Amsterdam. The production, in Dutch with English supertitles, can be seen 20-22 August at the Festival theatre, Edinburgh. Susannah Clapp

No title [Struggle], by Lynch.
No title [Struggle], by Lynch. Photograph: Bill Lynch/Courtesy of The Approach gallery


Bill Lynch at Brighton CCA
Dreamy, haphazard, enchanting paintings of the American wilds by an artist who died in 2013, at the age of 53, without ever having an exhibition. Born in New Mexico, raised in New Jersey, Lynch’s work has the delicacy of nature – owls, hawks, tangled blossoms, wide skies – and the force of city life in its swirling, stuttering, sometimes angry marks. He loved Chinese watercolours, and it shows through in these paintings, made wet on wet, sometimes on board. Brighton has a coup here, presenting his first major UK show(6 August-15 October). LC


A trio of festivals
The Walled City music festival (23-26 June) in Derry has a top guest lineup, including the Brodksy Quartet, Sandbox Percussion, Mill Ave Chamber Players, Ulster Orchestra and Acoustronic, followed by its international piano festival (27 June–1 July). Bold Tendencies returns to its south-east London car park home with its biggest programme yet, including cellist Abel Selaocoe, James McVinnie, Pavel Kolesnikov, Samson Tsoy, Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, Multi-Storey Orchestra and the Philharmonia, with music by Scriabin, Górecki, Stockhausen and Rachmaninov (4 June-10 September).

Orkney’s St Magnus festival (17-24 June) is back, with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, pianist Clare Hammond, soprano Lotte Betts Dean and more. The Presteigne festival (25-30 August) in the Welsh Marches has 10 world premieres (by Julian Philips, Aileen Sweeney, Tarik O’Regan, Huw Watkins and more), plus oboist Nicholas Daniels and the Carducci Quartet. FM


Adele plays Hyde Park

Adele accepting the artist of the year award at the Brits 2022 ceremony in February.
Adele accepting the artist of the year award at the Brits 2022 ceremony in February. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

Forget the jubilee: the rarely spotted Adele Adkins, queen of heartache, is braving her well-documented stage fright and aversion to touring and performing two full solo gigs in the UK in July, as part of the British Summer Time series of events. These will be her first performances here since long-ago, faraway 2017, when her run of Wembley stadium shows was unexpectedly curtailed under doctor’s orders. A run of Vegas shows earlier this year never happened, but now, armed with 30, the biggest record of 2021, and a home-town advantage, Adele is going to sing in public. Expect the Pimm’s-infused tears to flow (1 & 2 July). KE


Heavyweight ensemble dramas
Two of summer’s flagship homegrown dramas combine A-list writers with all-star casts. The Undeclared War (Channel 4) reunites Wolf Hall auteur Peter Kosminsky with leading man Mark Rylance for a cyber-thriller about GCHQ fending off an attack on our electoral system. Rylance is joined by Simon Pegg, Alex Jennings and, as the UK’s first black prime minister, Adrian Lester.

From playwright James Graham comes Sherwood (BBC One), a crime drama about undercover “spy cops” inspired by real events in the Nottinghamshire mining village where Graham grew up. David Morrissey, Joanne Froggatt, Adeel Akhtar and Lesley Manville head the cast list. Prepare to immerse yourself in both gripping series. MH


Lizzo soundtracks the summer
“It’s bad bitch o’clock!” declared Lizzo on her long-awaited recent single, About Damn Time, a title that could be the payoff line to so much of this summer’s fun. Infused with 70s production, Lizzo’s instant quotability and life-affirming verve, it bodes well for the rapper-singer-flute player’s fourth studio album, Special, expected on 15 July, whose title track has emerged as the music for an advert. “I hope that I can turn a little bit of the fear that’s been running rampant in this world, energetically into love,” she has said. KE

Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s Nope.
Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s Nope. Photograph: Landmark Media/Alamy


A pair of psychological horrors
You can count on auteurs such as Jordan Peele and Alex Garland to insert a significant chill into balmy summer days. For those who like a little shiver with their summer entertainment, both directors are back with creepily conceptual psychological horror films aimed to get under the skin. Peele, the Oscar-winning director of Get Out and Us, has kept his latest, the bluntly titled Nope, wrapped in a tantalising shroud of mystery for months now: a cryptically ominous teaser trailer gave away little but a collective of California oddballs looking up with horror at something in the sky. It promises nightmare imagery to die for, along with a tasty cast led by Daniel Kaluuya; in UK cinemas 22 July.

Garland’s Men, out on Wednesday, is also mightily enigmatic: lorded over by Rory Kinnear’s performance of many faces, it’s an eerie, debate-inspiring allegory for toxic masculinity. GL


Opera large and small
Top among friendliest of summer festivals is Dorset Opera. Local performers, rising stars and established professionals unite in a rural setting. This year: Mozart’s ever popular The Magic Flute, sung in English (26, 27, 29, 30 July), and Puccini’s high-passion Manon Lescaut (25, 27, 28, 30 July). Standards are high, the cream teas mouthwatering. In small-scale urban contrast, Grimeborn, at the Arcola, Dalston, east London, offers a chance to sample Wagner with Siegfried & Götterdämmerung (6-7 August) in Jonathan Dove’s cut-down orchestration. If you want full-strength Wagner, Opera North’s Parsifal is at Leeds Grand (1-10 June) then tours (12-26) to Manchester, Nottingham, Gateshead and London Southbank Centre.

For all the family, try Leeds opera festival’s new work, Power (19-29 Aug), made with five- to 12-year-olds from the New Wortley community centre. And Scottish Opera’s touring Pop-up Opera (3 June-10 July) has its own high-spirited rewrites of Rossini and Mozart for all ages. FM


Edinburgh international festival

Alan Cumming will star as Robert Burns in Burn.
Alan Cumming will star as Robert Burns in Burn. Photograph: PA

Though technically in the theatre programme, Burn (4-10 August) is indisputably a dance piece. Choreographed by Steven Hoggett, who won Oliviers for his work on Black Watch and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and featuring music from Anna Meredith, it stars Alan Cumming. While he is an actor whose work always has a dynamic physicality (he scored a huge hit at a previous Edinburgh festival as Dionysus in John Tiffany’s The Bacchae, also choreographed by Hoggett), Cumming has never before been in a piece as firmly dance-based as this re-examination of the life and work of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet.

Elsewhere in the dance programme, Scottish Ballet are presenting a version of that old favourite Coppélia (14-16 August), created by Jess and Morgs, that blends location and real-time filming as it asks what it means to be human in a world of artificial intelligence. The Delibes score will be referenced in a new composition by Mikael Karlsson and Michael P Atkinson. SCr


The Lazarus Project
Thanks to Russian Doll and Life After Life, time-loop stories are having a TV moment. Next up is The Lazarus Project (16 June on Sky Atlantic). This ambitious action thriller from writer Joe Barton (creator of Giri/Haji) stars I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu as a man who finds himself reliving the same day. He fears he’s losing his mind but is instead recruited to a secret organisation that somehow turns back time whenever the world is at threat of extinction. Mind-bending, blackly comic and movingly romantic. MH

Daisy Edgar-Jones in Where the Crawdads Sing.
Daisy Edgar-Jones in Where the Crawdads Sing. Photograph: Everett Collection Inc/Alamy


Where the Crawdads Sing
Despite a title that sounds utterly hilarious to anyone outside the US (a crawdad, in case you didn’t know, is a freshwater crayfish), Delia Owens’s 2018 novel has become an international phenomenon on the strength of its old-fashioned storytelling, blending honeyed romance and southern gothic mystery. It was plainly destined for big-screen treatment even before Reese Witherspoon selected it for her Hello Sunshine book club. Produced by Witherspoon and starring Brits Daisy Edgar-Jones and Harris Dickinson (both affecting their best Carolina drawl), it’s a rare summer multiplex attraction that’s aimed at adults and centred on women. In UK cinemas from 26 August. GL


Indie bands on tour
Just as a domestic indie renaissance was gathering pace, Covid shuttered, then decimated, the UK’s grassroots venues. The Music Venues Trust has hatched a plan, #ownourvenues, to kickstart a sustainable recovery. And all those fresh young guitar bands are making angular chord shapes all summer. Porridge Radio have just released an album and have a handful of outdoor dates to go with it, such as Latitude (22 July) and Bluedot (22 July). You can catch the likes of Wet Leg at a smattering of festivals and some headline shows. Dry Cleaning are touring solidly, and supporting Duran Duran at a Yorkshire stately home, Castle Howard, on 17 June, while Sorry have their own headline tour from now until 4 July. With umpteen live dates and festivals, no band will be as inescapable as Yard Act, however. Don’t throw items of clothing on stage, but vitamins. KE


Headphone highlights

The brilliant Caroline Criado Perez takes her gender-gap investigation from book to podcast for Visible Women from Tortoise Media (15 June), based on her bestseller Invisible Women. How can we close the gender gap and design a world that works for everyone, not just men? Her 12-part investigative series promises to uncover hidden women from history, find missing data and suggest ways of solving this huge, entrenched situation. Unmissable.

For the BBC, comedian, actor and presenter Jayde Adams sets out to tackle the weird world of neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and online message boards for Welcome to the Neighbourhood (BBC Sounds/Radio 4; 29 June). Each week, a different guest will discuss their home town’s quirks and neighbourhood arguments. Expect local beefs about errant cats, wheelie bin etiquette, and whether garden gnomes are bringing down house prices. It’s the modern version of ye olde bosom-hoicking gossip over the fence. Finally, Audible Original has an intriguing immersive drama series, The Big Lie (16 June), about the making of Salt of the Earth, a 1954 film about miners in New Mexico which was blacklisted by Hollywood, due to its makers’ alleged communist links. Jon Hamm, who also executive produces, plays the FBI agent who tries to shut the film down; Kate Mara, Ana de la Reguara, John Slattery, Bradley Whitford, Lisa Edelstein, Giancarlo Esposito, and David Strathairn also appear. Miranda Sawyer


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