Issue: May 2012

The Mask of the Monarchy

In six decades of portraits the Queen’s impenetrable expression has barely altered

Provincial Life and its Discontents

Revivals from three countries explore the anxieties of superfluous men and women

Brave Bombers

'Unlike Nazis shooting defenceless women and children into ditches, or herding them into purpose-built as chambers, RAF air crew faced the nightly risk of violent death'

Hollywood in Distress

Can you remember when you last heard a cinema audience laugh together at the same joke?

March on Syria

'Crumbling stones are nothing compared to the mangled bodies of Assad's victims. They are a good illustration, though, of the price of our impotence'

Wanted: Artists for Hard Times

Strangely, it is easier to write a state-of-the-nation drama if you set it in the past

Measuring Meritocracy

'Two successful sharp cookies marry and bear sharp cookies: voilà, a self-sustaining upper class based not on historical injustice but merit'

A Light Shining From Babylon

Will today’s scientists hunting the Higgs boson prove as ingenious as the ancient Mesopotamians?

Overrated: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Despite their Supreme Leader's violent hostility to Israel and the West, many Iranians believe he is simply not up to the job

Underrated: Abroad

The ravenous longing for the infinite possibilities of “otherwhere”

The king of cakes

"Yuletide revels were designed to see you through the dark days — and how dark they seem today"