The TV Shows
Following the emotional highs and lows of a Navarro competitive cheer squad, as they work to win a national title, this docuseries became almost instantly iconic upon its release earlier this year. Far from Bring It On cheerleading stereotypes, Cheer shows the intense, jaw-dropping reality behind the pom-poms. You’ll find yourself channelling ‘mat talk’ in no time. Watch it on Netflix. [https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81039393]
Those in the market for a dose of action should tune into Queen Sono, Netflix’s first African original series. The story of a South African spy, the six-episode TV thriller stars Pearl Thusi as the eponymous secret agent and is written and directed by Kagiso Lediga, an award-winning stand-up comedian in South Africa. With fight scenes and car chases enough to suit any espionage fan, this is a thrilling dose of fun to race through. Watch it on Netflix [https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81035137]
If there’s a show that’s set to become the next cult hit, it’s Tiger King. The subject of countless WhatsApp and HouseParty chats, Tiger King is a bonkers ride that demands attention. The crime docuseries follows an eccentric zoo owner known as Joe Exotic, as his life spirals out of control in the big cat underworld. As the New Yorker put it, the Tiger King’s story ‘stretches even the most vivid imagination’. See it and believe it. Watch it on Netflix. [https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/81115994]
Noughts & Crosses
If you’ve never read Malorie Blackman’s gripping series of young adult books, Noughts & Crosses, now is a great time to start (no matter how old you are). 19 years after the first novel was released, a TV adaptation has finally been made – and, thankfully, it lives up to the hype. Set in alternate world where white people (known as “Noughts”) are oppressed and black people (“Crosses”) are the ruling class, the series follows an interracial romance in the style of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. An excellent cast – including a cameo by Stormzy – do justice to Blackman’s vivid and moving creation. Watch it on BBC iPlayer. [https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p082w992/noughts-crosses]
As many territories gained access to Disney’s new streaming platform six months ago, you might already have seen conversations online about The Mandalorian online. Now, it’s finally the UK’s turn to get involved. Save the cartoon nostalgia for another day and dig into this Star Wars spin-off, focused on a mysterious bounty hunter tasked with protecting an infant creature called The Cure (otherwise known as Baby Yoda). Catch up now before Season 2 spoilers start to arrive. Watch it on Disney+. [https://disneyplusoriginals.disney.com/show/the-mandalorian]
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Directed by Céline Sciamma, this French historical drama earned rave reviews for its mesmeric portrayal of love and power. Set in the late 18th century, it’s the story of artist Marianne, who is summoned by a countess to a remote house in Brittany to paint her daughter Héloïse, under the pretence of acting as her companion. Filled with electric tension, it’s a gorgeous, emotional watch. Rent it on Curzon Home Cinema. [https://www.curzonhomecinema.com/film/watchportrait-of-a-lady-on-fire-online]
Can you ever have enough Jane Austen adaptations? If your answer to that question is no, then it’s worth checking out this latest offering – a colourful and deceptively cutting version of Emma from director Autumn de Wilde. Anya Taylor- Joy takes the titular role, manipulating the romantic relationships around her with remarkable ease – until she realises she has fallen in love herself. Watch it now on Apple, Amazon Video, and Google Play. [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Emma-Amber-Anderson/dp/B084GDFSFK/ref=sr_1_1keywords=Emma.&qid=1585507307&s=instant-video&sr=1-1]
For fans of the classic whodunnit (or of Daniel Craig), Knives Out is an escapist delight. Craig stars as Detective Benoit Blanc, who is mysteriously summoned to the estate of renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey after the writer is found dead. With an all-star cast playing Thrombey’s dysfunctional family and staff, this is an impeccably written, twistfilled romp. Watch now on Amazon Video and BFI Player.
The Perfect Candidate
Fresh from her well-received debut, Wadjda, Saudi Arabia’s first female filmmaker Haifaa al-Mansour returns to her native country with this powerful and moving portrait of a woman running for local city council. Mila Al Zahrani plays Maryam, a Saudi doctor exhausted by cuts to her practice, who takes it upon herself to make change via the political system. An uplifting and essentially optimistic tale of one woman’s powerful resistance. Watch now on Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player. [https://www.curzonhomecinema.com/film/watch-the-perfect-candidate-online]
The Invisible Man
For those in the mood for something darker, The Invisible Man is a chilling reimagining of the classic HG Wells story. When Cecilia (played by Elizabeth Moss) inherits a fortune from her violent ex after he supposedly dies by suicide, it starts a chain of eerie, and eventually lethal, coincidences that lead her to suspect that he may not be dead after all. Watch now on Amazon Video and Sky Store. [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Invisible-Man-StormReid/dp/B08512HL3D]
The Podcasts & Radio
If Instagram is anything to go by, quarantine has turned us all into amateur chefs. Luckily, cook, teacher, author and star of Netflix’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat, is here with a new podcast to help us troubleshoot our pantries and create dishes worth eating. Co-hosted by musician and podcaster Hrishikesh Hirway, Samin’s warm, easy manner will ease any lonely feelings, as her helpful tips spice up your meal plans. Listen here. [https://homecooking.show/]
‘Undercover Economist’ Tim Harford’s Cautionary Tales podcast weaves together ‘stories of human error, of tragic catastrophes and hilarious fiascos’ to create moral stories for grown-ups. Start with the episode ‘Bowie, Jazz and the Unplayable Piano’, which covers the incredible work that can come from challenge, including the unusual story behind the iconic guitar solo in the introduction to Bowie’s hit song, Heroes. Listen here. [http://timharford.com/articles/cautionarytales/]
Isolation Station by House of Dinosaur
House of Dinosaur – and their spectacular act, Twisted Time Machine – are firm favourites at Conduit parties. Until we can invite them to fill the dancefloor in our Speakeasy again, we’re keeping withdrawal pangs at bay by watching Isolation Station, their live radio show streamed via Facebook in classic colourful style. They even take requests! Listen here.
The Happiness Lab
You may remember the Yale University ‘happiness course’ that was widely shared and discussed on the Internet last year. Now its founder, psychology professor Dr Laurie Santos, is bringing her wisdom to the masses with this podcast, drawing on scientific research to help you live a more contented life. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Santos has introduced special episodes on easing anxiety and uncertainty – sure to be of use in these unsettled times. Listen here.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
The pick for April’s meet-up of the Conduit book club, Pachinko is the second novel by Korean-American author Min Jin Lee and follows four generations of a poor Korean immigrant family navigating life in 20th-century Japan. With richly imagined settings and passionate, memorable characters, this multi-generational saga will immerse you in a history that’s too little discussed. Find out more here.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
This striking debut gained immediate global attention when Reese Witherspoon chose it for her book club – and for good reason. The story of a young black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer and the surprising connection that threatens to undo them both, the book delves into issues of race, privilege and what it means to make someone family. Find out more here.
Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann
This epic novel, named after a geometrical term meaning “infinite number of sides”, is the story of an unlikely real-life friendship between two fathers: Bassam, who is Palestinian, and Rami, who is Israeli. Raised to hate one another, twin losses enable them to connect and wield their shared grief as a weapon for peace. Novelist Colum McCann was granted unprecedented access to Bassam and Rami’s lives to craft this remarkable story, pulling together fictional and non-fictional material for a tale that’s both heart-breaking and hopeful. Find out more here.
Sitopia: How Food Can Save The World by Carolyn Steel
Now more than ever, we’re aware of how our lives are shaped by food: how we search for and consume it. Drawing on multi-disciplinary insights from philosophy, history, literature and beyond, as well as interviews with farmers, designers and economists, Sitopia is a wide-ranging book that argues that improving our food system is the key to a healthier and more harmonious planet. Find out more here.
Listen Free on Audible
Looking for a way to entertain any kids in your care, or simply prefer to listen to your books? Audible has made hundreds of books in their archive free for you to listen to at your leisure. As well as books suitable for children of all ages, the list contains several classic novels, from Jane Eyre read by Thandie Newton to Frankenstein read by Dan Stevens. Listen here.
The National Theatre
Thursday nights are about to become theatre nights! Starting on 2nd April, the National Theatre will be streaming a play from their archives on their YouTube channel for free. Catch up with smash-hit produtions including One Man, Two Guvnors, starring James Corden, and Twelfth Night, starring Tamsin Greig. Find out more here.
In partnership with the BBC, the RSC are bringing six of their previous Shakespeare productions directly into our homes, from their 2018 production of Macbeth starring Christopher Eccleston to their 2016 version of Hamlet starring Paapa Essiedu. Keep an eye out for broadcast times here. Find out more here.
If you’re looking to binge on the Bard, Globe Player may be the streaming platform for you. For roughly the price of a groundling ticket you can rent productions of a wide range of the Globe’s previous productions, covering all of Shakespeare’s works. You can even purchase bundles around themes like Justice & Mercy and Kings & Rogues. Find out more here.
Royal Opera House
If you lean more towards opera and ballet, don’t miss the Royal Opera House’s schedule of free broadcasts, which includes a 2010 production of Così fan tutte and a 2013 performance of The Metamorphosis. For those who are less well-versed, this is a perfect opportunity to dip a toe into the operatic world. Find out more here.
The Theatre Café
Musical theatre enthusiasts should check out Leave A Light On, a series of live-streamed piano concerts organised by London’s The Theatre Café. With appearances from some of the West End’s brightest stars, the series provides financial support for out-of-work performers. Find out more here.
The 24-Hour Plays
For a quick theatrical fix, check out the Instagram account for The 24 Hour Plays, where you’ll discover a host of original monologues performed by familiar faces from stage and screen. Known for challenging actors and playwrights to create short dramas in 24 hours or less, the format shifted online in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more here.
The Artworks & Exhibitions
Faces of Frida
Newly created by Google Arts & Culture, the Faces of Frida exhibition combines works from 33 museums and cultural collections around the world to create the ultimate exploration of Frida Kahlo’s artistic oeuvre. From explorations of the hidden meaning behind her paintings to a deep dive into her colour palette, it’s the ultimate virtual tour of the Mexican artist’s work and legacy. Check it out here.
Harry Potter: A History of Magic
If you missed seeing this British Library exhibition in person, you’re in luck: now you can marvel at the magic from your home, via Google Arts & Culture. The online curation includes interactive experiences such as flicking through ancient spellbooks, as well as behind-the-scenes video interviews with Julian Harrison, the exhibition’s lead curator. Check it out here.
For the budding Picassos and Kahlos amongst you, the Royal Academy is sharing daily prompts on their Twitter feed, encouraging followers to draw something and share their mini artworks. A lovely pick me up and the perfect excuse for a creative coffee break. Check it out here.
George III’s Military Maps
Published earlier this year on the 200th anniversary of his death, George III’s unparalleled collection of military maps is the Royal Collection Trust’s first digital-only exhibition. The exhibition features more than 3,000 military maps, views and prints from the 16th to the 18th century, and you can explore each one in minute detail. Check it out here.