Autumn culture guide 2022: From Lucian Freud to My Neighbour Totoro, Blonde to The Crown

Autumn culture guide 2022: From Lucian Freud to My Neighbour Totoro, Blonde to The Crown


Autumn is bringing the goods: blockbuster exhibitions, star-studded stage shows, a double whammy of major albums, and TV shows sure to get the nation talking.

Here’s what you won’t want to miss, as chosen by our critics.


Lucian Freud: New Perspectives

From early promise to obscurity in the Sixties and late-career glory as “Britain’s greatest artist”, Lucian Freud’s status has had its ups and downs. If his prestige has slightly dipped since his death in 2011, this first major exhibition in a decade, featuring works from the full 70 years of his career, is sure to put him back in the spotlight. It will be interesting to see how his somewhat dour vision, forged amid post-war austerity, goes down in the current straitened climate. National Gallery, 1 October to 22 January;


Paul Cezanne, ‘Bathers’ c.1894-1905

(National Gallery)

A grumpy old man who spent his time tramping the hills of his native Provence, Paul Cezanne might seem an unlikely contender for the title of father of modern art. But it doesn’t get much better than Cezanne on top form, as generations of artist-followers from Monet and Picasso to Frank Auerbach will attest. This first full career survey in a British gallery in 25 years brings together 80 key works for a “once-in-a-generation” show. Tate Modern, 5 October to 12 March;

William Kentridge

From exquisite artist books to epic theatrical productions, the veteran South African artist isn’t afraid of big transitions in scale. Including immersive 3-screen animated films and enormous tapestries, Kentridge’s biggest British exhibition to date takes on the RA’s vast Main Galleries. Following on from landmark exhibitions in these spaces by the likes of Ai Wei Wei, Anish Kapoor and Antony Gormley, Kentridge has no option but to produce a show that is heroic in scale and ambition. Royal Academy, 24 September to 11 December;

Carolee Schneemann: Body Politics

Carolee Schneemann, ‘Up to and Including Her Limits’, 10 June 1976 Studiogalerie, Berlin

(Henrik Gaard Carolee Schneemann Papers)

An uproarious look at the seminal feminist performance artist whose naked performances included roller-skating the length of a high-speed train and getting a group of her fellow artists to roll around in raw meat. Long marginalised, Schneemann is now hailed for turning the female body into a medium of expression. From New York at its Sixties artistic highpoint to grimy post-Swinging London, the show brilliantly evokes an era of truly explosive creativity. Barbican Art Gallery, 8 September to 8 January;

Mark Hudson


The Crucible

Erin Doherty in rehearsals for ‘The Crucible’

(Johan Persson)

Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible (brief synopsis: it’s a witch hunt!) in 1953, just a few years before he was hauled before Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee as a suspected communist. Will the National Theatre’s revival prove it to be the defining play of our febrile, suspicious, social media-riddled times? The vast Olivier Auditorium is a notoriously tricky stage to get right, but this production has a few things on its side: The Crown star Erin Doherty as chief accuser Abigail, and the incisive Lyndsey Turner directing. National Theatre, 14 September to 5 November;

Tammy Faye

Tammy Faye Bakker, larger-than-life 1980s TV evangelist and supreme eyeshadow wearer, got the biopic treatment last year with The Eyes of Tammy Faye. But was a mediocre Oscar-bait movie really the best way to serve such a surreal and outlandish figure? More appropriate, perhaps, is this enjoyably OTT-sounding musical, written by Elton John, Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears, and playwright James Graham. For its premiere at the Almeida, Olivier winner Katie Brayben plays Bakker, with Andrew Rannells as her husband Jim. Tickets have been completely snapped up already, but keep an eye on the website for returns. Almeida Theatre, 13 October to 3 December;

My Neighbour Totoro

Animated 1988 fantasy ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ has been adapated for the stage

(Studio Ghibli)

If the idea of Studio Ghibli brought to life on stage makes you do a little gasp of joy, you’re not the only one: the RSC’s forthcoming adaptation of 1988 film My Neighbour Totoro broke the Barbican’s box office records for the most ticket sales in one day. No mean feat, since the title previously belonged to the Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet that sent everyone into a tizz in 2015. The show, about two sisters who move to the countryside to be near their mother and end up making friends with a giant grey cat in the forest, is being made in collaboration with Joe Hisaishi, the composer of the original music. Barbican, 8 October to 21 January, 2023;

Eureka Day

Our thoughts and prayers are with those who booked, pre-pandemic, to see Timothee Chalamet perform at the Old Vic and were finally told this year that it was off the cards. But one of London’s oldest theatres has no trouble attracting Hollywood stars: this month, Oscar winner Helen Hunt will star in Jonathan Spector’s new comedy Eureka Day, a play about a mandatory vaccine roll-out at a school beset by a mumps outbreak. Old Vic, until 31 October;

Jessie Thompson


Made in Leeds: Three Short Ballets, Northern Ballet

Three bright choreographers create new works in Northern Ballet’s latest programme. Wailers, by award-winning Mthuthuzeli November, was inspired by the struggles of not knowing where the next meal comes from and by the warmth of family and community. In Ma Vie, hip-hop choreographer Dickson Mbi explores the life of Casanova, from his notorious love affairs to his relationship with the church. Stina Quagebeur’s Nostalgia looks at longing and finding connection. 10 to 17 September, Leeds Playhouse; 1 to 3 November, Royal Opera House;

New Crystal Pite, The Royal Ballet

‘Flight Pattern’ at the Royal Opera House in 2019

(Tristram Kenton)

Pite is one of the most in-demand and thoughtful choreographers working today, from her command of surging massed movement to her witty, sharp-edged dramas. Created for The Royal Ballet in 2017, Flight Pattern was inspired by the refugee crisis, set to the first movement of Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Pite now revisits and expands the work, using the full-length symphony. Royal Opera House, 18 October to 3 November;

Ek / Forsythe / Quagebeur, English National Ballet

Under departing director Tamara Rojo, English National Ballet have had a flair for building relationships with big-name choreographers. This autumn, renowned Swedish choreographer Mats Ek creates a new version of The Rite of Spring for the company, taking on Stravinksy’s monumental score and its themes of sacrifice and renewal. It’s performed alongside William Forsythe’s lyrical Blake Works I, and Stina Quagebeur’s bouncy Take Five Blues. Sadler’s Wells, 9 to 12 November;

La Consagración de la Primavera, Israel Galván

Israel Galván is one of contemporary flamenco’s great experimenters: charismatic and fiercely eccentric, always ready to play with traditions. In his new show, the percussive rhythms of flamenco meet those of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, played live by two onstage pianists. Galván uses his body as a percussion instrument, while also responding to the work’s history – from the riot that greeted its premiere to the imagery associated with its famous first choreographer, the star dancer Vaslav Nijinsky. Sadler’s Wells, 25 to 26 November;

Zoe Anderson



Ana de Armas stars in ‘Blonde’


The scariest horror film of the year seems to be this highly anticipated Marilyn Monroe drama – a lopsided biopic by way of a Saw movie, starring an uncanny Ana de Armas. Reviews out of the Venice Film Festival were unsurprisingly divided. Some called its depiction of Monroe’s endless abuse and trauma abhorrent, others found something dazzling in its arty nihilism. What is indisputable is that everyone will be talking about it once it hits Netflix. Netflix, 28 September

The Banshees of Inisherin

The anxious panic of breaking off a friendship is ramped up to comic extremes in Martin McDonagh’s The Banshees of Inisherin, which has already drawn raves on the festival circuit. Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell – reunited with McDonagh 14 years after In Bruges – play inseparable besties living in a tiny Irish coastal village. That is until Gleeson’s character decides to, seemingly apropos of nothing, cut ties. 21 October

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Angela Bassett stars in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’

(Marvel Studios)

The definition of madness is thinking that a modern Marvel movie could be anything other than lukewarm soup… but doesn’t Black Panther 2 look moderately decent? Absent its star – Chadwick Boseman died from cancer in 2020 – this sequel has a real-life tragedy to grapple with. But, based on the trailer, the visuals look strong, Angela Bassett seems to be getting a dramatic showcase, and we even have franchise newcomer Michaela Coel in warrior garb. Could the MCU finally be getting over its recent slump? 11 November


Aftersun is rich with grief, revolving around a young woman looking back on a pivotal childhood holiday with her father. The feature debut of filmmaker Charlotte Wells – and produced by Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins – it sources profundity from hazy memories and is anchored by a pair of knockout performances by Normal People’s Paul Mescal and nine-year-old Francesca Corio. You will cry, but it’ll be worth it. 18 November

Adam White


The Bear

I don’t know about you, but my Twitter feed was clogged up for months with Americans raving about The Bear. This comedy-drama series, about a young chef (Jeremy Allen White) who takes over his family’s Italian beef sandwich restaurant, finally makes its way over to British shores this October. I’ve seen it described as “Uncut Gems in a kitchen” – chaotic, charismatic, and by all accounts very funny. That’s good enough for me! Disney+, 5 October

The Crown

Imelda Staunton will take over the role of Queen Elizabeth II in series 5 of ‘The Crown’


Netflix’s high-budget royal drama returns for its fifth season this November, following the escapades of the Windsor family in the 1990s. Imelda Staunton will be taking over from Olivia Colman as Her Maj for this season, with Elizabeth Debicki playing Princess Diana as part of a fully rejigged cast that also includes Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville, Jonny Lee Miller, and Dominic West. Whether this season will be quite as scandal-making as the last – former culture secretary Oliver Dowden ordered Netflix declare the show as “fiction” – remains to be seen. Netflix, November


Based on the cult 1980s fantasy movie, Willow sees Warwick Davis reprise the role of dwarf sorcerer Willow Ufgood in a new live-action series. It’s one of Disney’s more hyped streaming projects – certainly outside of the Marvel or Star Wars franchises – and gives the ever-enjoyable Davis his most prominent role since the Ricky Gervais/Stephen Merchant sitcom Life’s Too Short. After 35 years away from the character, it’s going to be intriguing what he can make of it. Disney+, 30 November

The Reckoning

Steve Coogan will play Jimmy Savile


The BBC’s biographical series about sexual predator Jimmy Savile is sure to get a lot of attention when it finally hits screens – there’s not so much as a trailer yet but it’s already the topic of hot debate. Steve Coogan will tackle a rare dramatic role in his portrayal of the Jim’ll Fix It star. Will it be tasteful? Will there be a point to it? Will it be any good? I suppose the only way to answer these questions will be to watch and find out. For some people though, the idea of spending a few hours in the company of Savile may just prove too off-putting to bear. BBC, autumn

Louis Chilton


When We Were Young festival

Fancy a bit of nostalgia? How about a lot? Music fans will be flocking to Las Vegas’s Festival Grounds on 22 October to see some of the biggest emo bands around, from headliners Paramore and My Chemical Romance to Jimmy Eat World, The All-American Rejects, Taking Back Sunday, and pop-punk queen Avril Lavigne. You can expect plenty of Gen-Z emos in attendance too, thanks to the inclusion of younger acts such as LA rock band The Linda Lindas and gloomy singer Jxdn. The same lineup is performing on each of the three days, meaning you might have to be picky if you want to see your favourites. Las Vegas, 22, 23 and 29 October

Taylor Swift and Arctic Monkeys release new albums

Taylor Swift releases ‘Midnights’ in October


Two highly anticipated albums arrive on 21 October, a day that will no doubt launch one of the fiercest chart battles in recent memory. Arctic Monkeys, long rumoured to be working on their follow-up to 2019’s critically adored Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, confirmed that new album The Car would come out in autumn. According to a press release, The Car finds the Arctics “running wild in a new and sumptuous musical landscape and contains some of the richest and most rewarding vocal performances of Alex Turner’s career”. They go head to head with Taylor Swift, whose preference for surprise announcements continued at the MTV VMAs last month. She revealed that she was preparing to release her 10th album, Midnights, which she described as “a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams. The floors we pace and the demons we face.” For fans of a little drama, it seems there might be a reference or two to her old feud with Kanye West and his now-ex Kim Kardashian: her announcement came 13 (her favourite number) years after the rapper’s notorious interruption of her VMAs speech in 2009. This year’s VMAs also happened to take place on Kardashian’s birthday. Happy birthday, Kim? 21 October

Kendrick Lamar’s UK and Ireland tour

Kendrick Lamar at Glastonbury


Kendrick Lamar will bring his The Big Steppers tour to the UK and Ireland in November, following on from his triumphant headline set on the Pyramid Stage at this year’s Glastonbury festival. While the tour is named after his most recent album, the poetic Mr Morale and the Big Steppers, fans can expect plenty of hits from Lamar’s previous work, from the drama of 2017’s “Humble” to the playful bounce of “King Kunta”. 2 to 14 November

Pitchfork Music Festival, London

Now in its second year, Pitchfork Music Festival in London is taking place at various venues around the city from 9-13 November. Already announced to perform are artists such as Courtney Barnett, who’s supporting her latest album Things Take Time, Take Time. Expect colourful, eclectic baroque pop from Welsh artist Cate Le Bon, and beautifully complex arrangements from Norway’s Jenny Hval. Venues taking part include Earth in Hackney, Village Underground, Fabric and Islington Assembly Hall. 9 to 13 November

Roisin O’Connor


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Jorge Oliveira