The Great British Bake Off – or ‘GBBO’, as it’s known to the more dedicated fans – is one of the breakthrough television programmes of the past few years. It started off as ‘just another’ cookery show – albeit with a reality twist. But now, as Season 4 kicks off, it has attracted a loyal and devoted following. Just what is it about baking that attracts such an audience, wonders Clarissa Tan in her TV review this week. Perhaps it’s the sharing quality of cake – ‘after all, baking is communal, isn’t it?’ But there’s also the sheer patriotism of the programme. ‘Little Union flags… all the foodstuffs that make Britain great’, and a ‘national pride [that] spills over to embrace the world’. Maybe cake will bring everyone together, after all.
Alfred Munnings is well known for his outburst at the Royal Academy in 1949 – an outburst which Andrew Lambirth says did Munnings ‘a grave and lasting disservice’. But his ‘real genius as a painter is re-emerging’, thanks in part to the recent film Summer in February, and the novel of the same name. He is, to many, ‘the greatest of 20th-century equestrian artists’, and The Munnings Collection, in his old home, Castle House, near Colchester, is a beautiful tribute to his work. Munnings is being taken seriously as an artist again – and ‘about time, too’, says Lambirth.
Chimerica, at the Harold Pinter theatre, has just moved from the Almeida Theatre to its new home – and moves such as this can sometimes sound the death knell for a play. But Lucy Kirkwood’s ‘hit play’ survives the move very well. Lloyd Evans reviews it in this week’s magazine, and is impressed by Kirkwood’s grasp of politics, which is ‘amazingly assured’. For a play which is all about ‘eastern and western superpowers’ and economics, this is vital. But more than that – the play is also ‘heart-breaking’, with ‘emotional punch’ and ‘creative ambitions’. ‘We don’t go to the theatre to change our minds, only to change our mood, and this show works that magic triumphantly’, says Evans.
Tom Stopped is ‘a real radio man’, with his most recent play, Darkside, his tenth written for radio. But ‘it’s a shame he hasn’t written more for radio’, says Kate Chisholm, as ‘his love of wordplay and of taking the imagination into new dimensions works brilliantly on air’. This was Radio 2’s first-ever original drama, and for it to be one written by Stoppard is ‘quite a coup’. It was inspired by Pink Floyd’s album The Dark Side of the Moon, and ‘gives the album a whole new dimension’. It might be ‘a bit existential’ for a Bank Holiday Monday – but then again, now we have iPlayer, you can listen to it whenever it takes your fancy.