Dealing with the past can be a strange undertaking, especially when that past has been shared and interpreted to the point of cliché. Fifties Britain meant different things to different people. To some it was a time of recovery and upward-mobility, to others it was a grim slog through prejudices and pressure to conform. Humour always helps as it keeps us grounded and humble. A fizzy domestic comedy, a vibrant story of immigrant culture or a searingly honest photograph are all legitimate ways of interpreting the past – no matter how difficult.

Home, I’m Darling – The Duke of York Theatre
Home, I’m Darling – The Duke of York Theatre
Katherine Parkinson is a past master of playing brittle characters who are just about clinging onto their marbles and in this production she reaches the heights of genius. As housewife Judy, she takes to her chosen role of homemaker with an all-encompassing vengeance. The house is a shrine to 50s kitsch culture as she bakes, scrubs, sews while waiting to greet her returning hubby with a smile and a martini.

Initially, no one minds her slightly bonkers obsession with living like Doris Day, but as her husband career falters, things in this cosy bubble start to unravel. Tightly directed and superbly cast, Home, I’m Darling is a withering assessment of gender roles and the tyranny that many women still willingly submit themselves to as they seek to live out the domestic goddess fantasy.

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/home-im-darling-at-duke-of-yorks-theatre

Small Island – National Theatre
Small Island – National Theatre
It’s still a common question that is asked more out of ignorance than malice. How and why did a people turn their backs on a sunny “paradise” in order to sweep the cold streets of London? The late Andrea Levy’s sprawling masterpiece is an eloquent answer/rebuttal to such simplistic sentiments.

Small Island traces the journeys and sketches the motives that took Jamaican immigrants to post-war Britain. Broke, exhausted and short of manpower, the mother country needed their labour but shunned their presence. A 40 strong cast of bright, new performers bring this epic book to life on stage.

https://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/small-island

Joe Bonamassa – Royal Albert Hall
Joe Bonamassa – Royal Albert Hall
The holy trinity of blues rock guitar legends are all now in semi-retirement. Clapton runs a festival in Antigua, Page is still counting his Led Zep reunion cash and Beck plays jazz and fixes cars. Joe Bonamassa has long been their heir apparent but now he is ready to be crowned king and where better than his favourite UK venue – the Royal Albert Hall.

Always tasteful, always authentic – Bonamassa, like his hero, Clapton has grown as a vocal stylist as well as a guitar gunslinger. Well chosen blues standards are showcased alongside inventive originals and blazing hot fret workouts. A blues legend for our time.

https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2019/joe-bonamassa/

Don McCullin – Tate Britain
Don McCullin – Tate Britain
Growing up in bombed out post-war North London meant that the young Don McCullin had precious few illusions and was probably why his subsequent career was markedly free of pretension. Famous for his bleak pictures of war and suffering, there is nevertheless a tenderness in his work. McCullin always attempted to capture the soul of anyone he photographed, even if they were terrified, angry or just plain exhausted.

Two hundred and fifty photographs are all displayed and include his famous pictures of US marines battling for the city of Hue during the turning point of the Vietnam War. There are also pictures of other conflicts in places like Cyprus and Northern Ireland as well as more idyllic scenes near his house in Somerset.

https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/exhibition/don-mccullin

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