Conduit for Culture: May 2020

The days are getting lighter and the weather is getting warmer – but we still need something to keep us entertained during long lockdown evenings! From adaptations of smash-hit books to hard-hitting theatre, this is what we’re watching, reading and listening to in May.

The TV Shows

Normal People

With 16M views on BBC iPlayer in its first week, as well as rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, chances are you won’t need us to tell you about Normal People. For the uninitiated, this electrifying story of love between two very different young people is adapted from the award-winning novel by Sally Rooney. The story follows the relationship between popular but poor Connell and wealthy intellectual wallflower Marianne as they move from rural Ireland to student life in Dublin. Emotional, moving and the perfect escapist viewing. Watch it on iPlayer.

Feel Good

Another – though very different – show about the complex relationship between two people, Feel Good was written by Canadian comedian Mae Martin and centres around Mae the character and her new girlfriend George. The show covers challenging subjects including the process of coming out to friends and family and the nature of addiction, while remaining hilarious throughout. Watch it on Channel 4.

The Last Dance

With all games and matches cancelled for the foreseeable future, sports fans have been short of entertainment to get really excited about of late. Luckily, that’s all changed with the release of The Last Dance, a documentary series about the late 1990s heydays of the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan. Featuring never-seen-before footage and anecdotes, the ten-part series is equal parts nostalgic and revelatory. Watch it on Netflix.

The Books

Hamnet’

Maggie O’Farrell is widely renowned as one of our finest living novelists. Now she channels our most iconic playwright with this tale of the Bard’s only son. Set in the summer of 1596, this lyrical and devastating story is a reimagining of the life of a boy whose story has been all but forgotten but whose name lives on in one of our most celebrated plays. Learn more here.

‘The Binding’

Join us for May’s meet-up of The Conduit book club where we’ll be discussing The Binding by Bridget Collins. Set in a mysterious medieval past, The Binding is the story of disgraced teenager Emmett, who is sent by his family to be an apprentice to a binder of books – a vocation that raises fear and suspicion in the local community. When Emmett discovers a book with his own name on it, he is set on a path to recover his lost path. A magical, immersive read, this is a wonderful piece of escapist fiction. Learn more here and sign up for the bookclub here.

Around the World in 80 Trains’

While we’re unable to travel ourselves, this new non-fiction book from Monisha Rajesh is the next best thing. A warm and witty travelogue, Around the World in 80 Trains takes you from King’s Cross to the Qinghai–Tibet railway, via Mongolia, Canada, North Korea and beyond, and is packed with evocative descriptions of the breath-taking scenery and fellow passengers encountered on the way. Learn more here.

The Documentaries

Becoming

Whether or not you’ve read her hit autobiography, there’s much to be discovered and enjoyed in this new and intimate documentary following former first lady Michelle Obama. The film chronicles the ‘Becoming’ book tour, taking a behind the scenes look at Michelle’s life, dreams and connections with others. A warm and inspiring watch. Available on Netflix.

For Sama

Academy Award-nominated documentary For Sama is an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. Once you’ve watched the film, visit the Digital Library to listen to the film’s directors, Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, as well as Dr Hamza al-Kateab and Josie Naughton, CEO of Help Refugees, speak about the film, life in Syria today, the fight for justice and how we can best support those affected by the conflict. Available on Channel 4.

She Did That

The cinematic debut of Brooklyn-based filmmaker Renae L. Bluitt, She Did That explores the passionate pursuits of four black women entrepreneurs as they seek to raise the glass ceiling for future generations. Working in areas from beauty to finance, these women provide powerful testimonies as to the struggles and successes of their respective journeys. Available on Netflix.

The Podcasts

Dolly Parton’s America

‘In this intensely-divided moment, the one thing everyone seems to agree on is Dolly Parton – but why?’ If the tagline for this 9-part audio series doesn’t intrigue you then we don’t know what else will. Delve into the Dollyverse with host Jad Abumrad as he explores what it is that makes the music legend so special. If that’s not enough to convience you, Forbes named it the Best Podcast of 2019. Listen here.

The 80,000 Hours Podcast

Tune into the back catalogue of the 80,000 Hours Podcast to learn how we can all use our own careers to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Host and research economist Rob Wiblin and his guests explore everything from moral uncertainty and the role of capitalism to factory farming and AI, as well as – you guessed it – pandemics. Listen here.

Conduit Conversations

Did you know that The Conduit has a podcast? Conduit Conversations brings you in-depth discussions with the people at the cutting-edge of social change. In previous series, our Co-Founder Paul van Zyl has spoken with everyone from actor and activist Chiwetel Ejiofor to broadcaster Christiane Amanpour and novelist Elif Shafak. In our latest series, produced with Ralph Lauren, Paul is exploring sustainable fashion, speaking to industry experts, academics and entrepreneurs about the collaborations and innovations shaping a more sustainable future. In our latest episode, Paul speaks to investigative journalist and oceanographer Oliver Steeds. Listen here.

The Theatre

Cyprus Avenue

First presented on stage in 2016, footage from this iconic Royal Court stage production has been combined with location shooting in Belfast for a brand-new theatrical experience. This hard-hitting black comedy follows Eric Miller, a Belfast Loyalist struggling with the past and terrified of the future (as represented by his five-week old granddaughter). Learn more here.

Midnight Your Time

Created by the Donmar Warehouse, ‘Midnight Your Time’ is a theatre first: a one-woman play recorded via webcam exploring what it really means to communicate remotely. Diana Quick stars as Judy, a retired lawyer stuck at home in Islington, looking for ways to occupy herself – one of which is her weekly online calls with her daughter in Palestine. Written for Quick by Adam Brace, this is a timely, viciously funny and ultimately heartbreaking story. Midnight Your Time will premiere on the Donmar’s YouTube channel at 7.30pm on 13th May and will then be available to watch for seven days. Learn more here.

Take Me to the World

This celebration of Steven Sondheim’s 90th birthday is the ultimate treat for musical theatre fans! Tune in to watch stars of stage and screen perform their favourite Sondheim songs from classic shows including Sundays in the Park with George, Company and Into the Woods, from the comfort of their own homes (or, occasionally, nearby outdoor spaces). With two many famous faces to count, including Meryl Streep, Neil Patrick Harris, Lin Manuel Miranda, Patti LuPone and Christine Baranski, this is a feel-good treat for the ears. Watch it here.