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20 things to watch, read and see in 2020

Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House

When it comes to cultural highlights for 2020, we’re spoilt for choice. So here’s a round-up of upcoming unmissables to get excited about – a new-year celebration of sisterhood, Hollywood heroines, female directors and women writers. Enjoy.

Lifestyle

THE THEATER PRODUCTIONS TO SEE

A Doll’s House, Playhouse Theatre, London

She’s already a veteran of the American stage, but Golden Globe winner Jessica Chastain will make her UK theater debut in Frank McGuinness’s version of A Doll’s House at The Playhouse Theatre, London. Written by Henrik Ibsen, this classic play tells the story of housewife Nora, stifled by her marriage but restricted by the conventions of the 19th century. Call it early feminism. From June 10 to September 5

Plaza Suite, Hudson Theatre, New York

For a throwback meta experience, catch Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker returning to Broadway together for the first time in 25 years. The real-life husband and wife will portray three married couples successively occupying the same hotel suite in a revival of the 1968 Neil Simon comedy at the Hudson Theatre. Broderick won his first Tony Award when he was just 21 for another Simon play, Brighton Beach Memoirs. From March 13 to July 12

Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones in Normal People

THE TV SHOWS TO WATCH

Normal People

Fans of Irish novelist Sally Rooney, described by The New York Times as “the first great millennial author”, will be excited to see this 12-part adaptation of her 2018 novel, Normal People. Filmed in Dublin, Sligo and Italy, it follows gifted but socially awkward teenager Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones, War of the Worlds) as she hooks up with Connell (newcomer Paul Mescal), the son of her mother’s cleaner, a relationship they are determined to conceal. Coming soon on Hulu (US) and BBC Three (UK)

Dummy

Don’t have time to commit to a box set? Try Dummy, a quirky new drama about a writer and her boyfriend’s sex toy, starring Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect). Each episode is less than 10 minutes long and one of a whole raft of projects – from a Guillermo del Toro zombie story to a Cara Delevingne prank show – to launch on Quibi, DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s new subscription streaming platform for ‘quick bites’ mobile viewing. Promising “the quality of HBO and the convenience of Spotify”, it could well revolutionize our viewing habits. Quibi launches on April 6 (US)

Hollywood

Showrunner Ryan Murphy is keeping this new Netflix project under wraps, but he has promised a young, optimistic drama that will look at early Hollywood “and how absolutely everything has changed and nothing has changed”. Starring and executive produced by Darren Criss (who won an Emmy and Golden Globe for The Assassination of Gianni Versace) and David Corenswet (The Politician), what better excuse to revisit the dazzling fashions of the ’40s? On Netflix in May

Liu Yifei in Mulan

THE MOVIES NOT TO MISS

Mulan

A live-action version of Mulan will swashbuckle into movie theaters nearly 22 years after the original animation. Chinese-American actress Liu Yifei stars as the girl who disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her elderly father from joining the army. Gong Li will play Xian Lang, a witch who is her arch-nemesis, while Niki Caro (Whale Rider) is on directing duty, making her the second woman to direct a Disney movie with a budget over $100 million. Expect more action and fewer songs, though Caro has confirmed there will be some music. Out March 27 (US and UK)

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)

Margot Robbie takes center stage as Harley Quinn in the follow-up to 2016’s superhero saga Suicide Squad. Psychiatrist-turned-vigilante Harley has left her boyfriend, The Joker, and joins forces with Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to protect a girl being targeted by the crime lord Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). This movie looks set to bring girl-gang power to Gotham City in no uncertain terms – bravo Robbie and team for pitching it to Warner Bros Studios back in 2015. “Harley needs friends,” she said. Out February 7 (US and UK)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

A deeply romantic period romance, Céline Sciamma’s movie is already being labeled a ‘masterpiece’, with its weighty themes and elegant, painterly cinematography. Set in the 18th century on the windswept French coast, it sees Marianne (Noémie Merlant) hired to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), an obstinate subject who fascinates her companion. Love soon blossoms, but can it last? Out February 28 (UK)

The French Dispatch

Writer-director Wes Anderson describes his latest oeuvre as a “love letter to journalists set in 20th-century Paris”. The action happens at an American newspaper, with staff played by the usual roll call of greats including Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. Anderson also welcomes Timothée Chalamet, Elisabeth Moss, Kate Winslet and Léa Seydoux, who are all new to his distinctive films. It’s the tenth feature from the Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox director, who himself now lives in Paris.

Margot Robbie and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Suki Waterhouse and Clara Rosager in Misbehaviour

Misbehaviour

The Miss World pageant gets a shake-up in a comedy-drama set in 1970, starring Keira Knightley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Jessie Buckley. Directed by Philippa Lowthorpe (Three Girls) and based on a true story, it sees members of the newly formed Women’s Liberation Movement invading the stage of the beauty contest and achieving overnight fame – and there’s also a surprise winner of the contest itself. Out March 13 (UK)

THE BOOKS TO READ

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Instantly compelling, this debut novel from bold new voice Kiley Reid is poised to be one of 2020’s most-talked-about books. It’s set in Philadelphia and revolves around a self-assured white woman named Alix and a 25-year-old black college grad, Emira, who’s yet to figure out what she wants, but is happy for now to babysit Alix’s toddler, Briar. When a grocery-store security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, it sets in motion a plot that braids coincidence with pitch-perfect dialogue as it dives deep into the uncomfortable dynamics of race and privilege. It’s also hilariously astute about myriad other aspects of modern life, from dating to décor. Out December 31, G.P. Putnam’s Sons (US); January 7, Bloomsbury Circus (UK)

Lift As You Climb by Viv Groskop

Having taken to the stage as a stand-up comedian when she was a pushing-40 mum-of-three, British journalist Viv Groskop knows a thing or two about putting yourself out there. Her latest book is exhilarating. Billed as a confidence bible for the world of work, it’s not just about getting ahead, it’s about getting ahead without leaving anyone else behind. And that includes the person in the mirror because, she insists, you needn’t lose your sense of self in order to embrace ambition. Warm and wickedly smart, it’s a brilliant corrective to the groaning shelves of motivational primers that read like warfare how-tos. Out February 20, Bantam Press (US); March 5 (UK)

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Ann Goldstein’s English translation of reclusive Ferrante’s new work of fiction – her first in five years – is shrouded in secrecy, but in Italy the novel’s release has already had fans lining up through the night to get a copy. Unfolding against the same Neapolitan backdrop as her cult quartet, it opens in the early ’90s, when sweet 12-year-old Giovanna overhears her father saying she’s ugly, and likening her to his estranged sister. Soon, she’s on a quest to track down her mysterious aunt Vittoria, following a trail that leads from the city she knows – affluent, liberal – into its working-class, dialect-speaking areas. Expect a tale of teenage rebellion charged with all the themes for which we love Ferrante best. Out June 9, Europa Editions (US and UK)

The Mirror & the Light by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall fans, rejoice: the final instalment of Hilary Mantel’s immersive and much-garlanded trilogy, originally expected in 2014, is now tantalizingly close. Mantel has spoken about the pressure she’s felt while writing this book, but at nearly 900 pages long, it promises to be well worth the wait. Picking up from where the last volume left off, at the beheading of Anne Boleyn, it traces the final four years of Oliver Cromwell’s life amid the treachery and deadly intrigue of the Tudor court. The history books are full of spoilers, but in Mantel’s hands, the past comes so electrifyingly to life that you’ll be on tenterhooks regardless. Out March 5, Fourth Estate (UK); March 10, Henry Holt and Co (US)

How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right? by Pandora Sykes

Essays deserve to be far more fashionable, and British columnist Pandora Sykes – who also happens to be Dolly Alderton’s other half on their hit podcast, The High Low – gives them a breezy, youthful update in her first collection. Tapping a plethora of modern anxieties, it’s set to be as stimulating as it is reassuring, roaming across topics from wellness to womanhood, contentment to consumerism, asking whether what we’ve been told about them – and what we tell ourselves – is necessarily so. It’s a voice you’ll recognize from your earbuds, pally not preachy, and cheering us on to strike out in search of our own paths to contentment. Out July 16, Hutchinson (UK)

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Dorothea Tanning at Alice: Down the Rabbit Hole

THE EXHIBITIONS TO SEE

Fashion in Japan 1945-2020, The National Art Center, Tokyo

The eyes of the world will be on Tokyo this summer as it hosts the Olympic Games. Among the standout exhibitions on in the city then will be one about Japanese fashion from the end of the Second World War to the present day. It promises not just a look at big-name designers such as Issey Miyake, but phenomena such as monpe pants, which started out as workwear for female farm laborers and have since been co-opted for the office. A big section will also be devoted to the all-pervasive kawaii aesthetic: partly inspired by ‘Lolita fashion’ and synonymous with pastel-colored cuteness. From June 3 to August 24

Alice: Down the Rabbit Hole, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Expect Cheshire Cats and Mad Hatters galore as the V&A invites visitors on an immersive trip to Wonderland. The summer blockbuster will explore both the origins and the huge cultural impact of Lewis Carroll’s classic novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). Featuring artwork by the likes of Walt Disney, Salvador Dalí and Dorothea Tanning – as well as taking in the worlds of theater, ballet, fashion and film – it is set to be the biggest exhibition about Alice ever staged. From June 27 to January 10

Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures, MoMA, New York

Dorothea Lange was one of the 20th century’s great photographers, and now a major exhibition at MoMA will feature works from her career. Lange’s best known for her compassionate shots of impoverished citizens in the ’30s, taken while traveling across the southern United States in the Depression era. She once said, “All photographs… can be fortified by words.” And the show will consider the interviews she did with many of her subjects, alongside displays of contemporary newspapers, poetry and government reports. From February 9 to May 2

Christo & Jeanne-Claude, Centre Pompidou, Paris

As well as being husband and wife, Christo Javacheff and Jeanne-Claude de Guillebon were among the most innovative of artistic duos. Better known as Christo and Jeanne-Claude, they made a career out of eye-catching outdoor interventions, usually on a monumental scale. These included suspending a giant curtain across a valley in Colorado between two mountaintops. A new exhibition at the Centre Pompidou will look back at their earliest work together from the late-’50s to the mid-’60s. Though Jeanne-Claude died in 2009, Christo keeps working, and during the show’s run, he’ll be wrapping the Arc de Triomphe entirely in fabric for a fortnight. From March 18 to June 15

Maria Abramović, Royal Academy, London

She’s sometimes referred to as the godmother of performance art. Over a 50-year career, Marina Abramovic has earned fame – as well as considerable notoriety – for pieces testing her mental and physical endurance. Next autumn, she and a team of performers will take over the main galleries at the Royal Academy. Precise details of the exhibition haven’t been revealed, but we’re told it will feature pieces from Abramovic’s past, alongside a fair share of new ones in which audience members will be roped in… to sing, skip, scream or who knows what? You have been warned. From September 26 to December 8

Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California (March 1936)

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