September 8, 2008

The Only Way is Up


Cover story Autumn is the busiest, and most exciting, time of year in the arts calendar. But which new stars are set to shine as the nights draw in? On the following pages, we train our telescope on this season's brightest young things. Prepare to be dazzled...



Joseph Mount (right) is Metronomy -or at least he is when he's in his studio. Live, the act morphs into a three-piece band, with Gabriel Stebbing (centre) and Oscar Cash (left) cooking up a danceable, hook-laden melange. Forthcoming second album Nights Out is already getting brilliant reviews, but it's been a slow-burning rise for the affable Mount. Over the past year, he has become known as the knob-twiddler du jour, having remixed Gorillaz, Goldfrapp and Kate Nash, and produced tracks for Roots Manuva and fellow rising star thecocknbullkid, aka Anita Blay (see overleaf), who he has only kind words for. "British pop needs someone like her, who's exciting and won't just record some retro soul," he says. "She's quite bold."

What would be your dream production job? "Girls Aloud. We mention them in every interview, just hoping that one of them will see it. On Wikipedia it says thatI used to go out with Nicola from Girls Aloud. I wish!"

Favourite bands? "The Beatles, Talking Heads and David Bowie. And I'm really into pop - people like the Neptunes, Timbaland and Kanye West. Oh, and the last Britney Spears album. It got a bit ignored, but it's actually one of the best albums I've heard in ages."

How do you fit in producing around band duties? "Music is one of those rare hobbies that can become what you do. That doesn't stop it from being my hobby. Whenever I have some time off, I just do my hobby." '

Metronomy's album 'Nights Out' is out tomorrow on Because

Miriam Elia


The winner of this year's BBC Witty & Twisted award, Miriam Elia has pretentious liberals in her sights. "Like the ones who ask, 'War: what is it good for?' I can tell them: installing a liberal western democracy."

A trained graphic designer, the 25-year-old is developing an animated film for the BBC, and her art-school background is a source of inspiration for her comedy too. "A lot of my radio sketches are based on visual ideas, a bit like collages where lots of different things come together to make a monster."

Expectations are high for her forthcoming radio show A Series of Psychotic Episodes. In the meantime she is resting on the laurels of a nomination for a Sony Radio Academy award ("I got quite a lot of recognition and a new dress") and recovering from her first Edinburgh festival.

How was Edinburgh? "It was an emotional rollercoaster. Or to avoid a cliche, let's call it an emotional dodgems."

Comedy heroes/mentors Neil Edmonds, formerly of Perrier-winning sketch group The Consultants, and Mark Thomas. "Mark and I just wrote a sketch together over the phone about comedy suffragettes. Their demands are Jokes For Women."

A Series of Psychotic Episodes airs on BBC Radio 7 next month

thecocknbullkid, aka Anita Blay


"Suddenly everybody seems to be talking about me; my management tells me there's a big buzz." With just one single release to date (the wry end-of-love song "On My Own"), Anita Blay seems rather bemused that she is being hailed as music's next big thing.

Born to Ghanaian parents who settled in London 30 years ago, Blay was a music obsessive by her mid-teens."At first, I was into pop and R&B, but when I reached 18, I started having issues, my tastes got dark, and things became interesting."

Heroes "I never wanted to conform. I look at Madonna, Bjrk, Grace Jones - none are typical. That's what I aspire to."

Inspirations "When you're happy, thin and in love there is nothing to write about. That was me a couple of years ago, and the songs I wrote were fluffy. I'm not in love right now. My songs are much better."

thecocknbullkid plays Hush at the Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (020 7589 8212), on 15 September and the Shoreditch Airwaves festival in London on 19 September

Tom Hiddleston


While at Rada, Tom Hiddleston was in the same year as Andrea Riseborough (see overleaf); now they're together again, in Ivanov at the Donmar Warehouse, alongside Kenneth Branagh.

Hiddleston, 27, has had an "amazing" couple of years. He played Casio in the Donmar's much-hyped Othello, which starred Ewan McGregor. And earlier this year he won a Best Newcomer Olivier for his dual role as Posthumus and Cloten in Cheek By Jowl's Cymbeline - the very award scooped in 1982 by Branagh, who Hiddleston has seen a lot of lately; they've just been in Sweden filming three of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander crime novels for the BBC.

How big a break was 'Othello'? "James Laurenson, who was playing Brabantio, said to me, 'You'll be lucky if you get a job like this three or four times in your career.' It was very special."

What have you learned from Kenneth Branagh? "Sometimes I walk into rehearsal and hear Ken, and think oh, they're not acting... oh, they are acting! It's the Holy Grail of being an actor when you can't see the joins."

For 'Ivanov' details, see overleaf

Duane Hopkins


Hopkins spent May touting himself at Cannes in support of his debut feature, Better Things. Dealing with love, loss and drug addiction in his birthplace, the Cotswolds, it was nominated for the Camera D'Or. The 35-year-old studied fine art, but found his real metier on making a short film. "Film incorporates all the disciplines I'm interested in - painting, photography, music - but I fell in love with editing, the ability to show an action from different angles," he explains.

Before 'Better Things', you set two short films in rural England. Why that focus? "My work is often biographical. I also like to work with non-actors who can bring something to the script, such as the former drug users who are in Better Things."

How was Cannes? "The pace is relentless - doing press junkets, making sure the film is screened correctly - but it was interesting to see my work through the eyes of the audience."

What's next? "An economic-survival film, set among a social underclass." In an urban area? "Well, a satellite town at least."

'Better Things' is released on 7 November

Miranda Donovan


"It was surreal", says Donovan of her first solo show. All of the works in The Lost World of Innocence sold in minutes in May, raising a total of 415,000.

After graduating from City & Guilds in 2005, Donovan was taken on by Steve Lazarides, who represents Banksy. The 29-year-old works with heavy textures, painting brick walls using oil paints and industrial materials such as cement, carving in details of bricks and covering them in graffiti. "I like to throw in loaded words, so the viewers can decode the work for themselves." Next up? Lazarides is taking three new Donovan works to New York for a group show at the end of the month.

What ambitions do you have for your work? "Sculpture is coming more into it, like adding drain pipes to the walls. And a retrospective at one of the Tates would be nice!"

Inspirations? All grafitti artists, "Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Hepher, Howard Hodgkin, city streets and immense skies". '

Donovan's work is part of an ongoing show at Lazarides, 125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2 (0207 287 5151)

Isabel McMeekan

Ballet dancer

Thirty-year-old Londoner McMeekan joined the Royal Ballet six years ago, and as a first soloist she's getting stuck into some juicy character roles this season at Covent Garden: Gamzatti the evil seductress in La Bayadre, the angel of death in Serenade, and as that tragic heroine of modern dance, Isadora Duncan.

The cream of the world's dancers flock to Covent Garden; what's the atmosphere like? "It's highly competitive; there are always younger, fitter, better dancers coming up: Cubans, Brazilians, Spanish. There are three British principal dancers, which is good because for a while there weren't any."

Do you get groupies? "At Covent Garden you get about 25 at the stage door - they're a bit older but they're huge supporters of the ballet. It's in Tokyo that you feel like a proper superstar - fans there turn up with photos of you from past performances, and they have to put up cordons to hold them back."

'Serenade' is at the Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020 7304 4000), from 28 October until 10 November

Lucy Kirkwood


"I've been very lucky." The 24-year-old Kirkwood is being a bit modest. She has only just graduated, but is already on her fourth play, a modern re-imagining of Hedda Gabler.

Superagent Mel Kenyon signed her up after reading her first play, Grady Hot Potato, which won the new writing prize at the National Student Drama festival in 2005.

This year, as well as being on the writing team of Skins, she wrote the dazzling apocalyptic comedy Tinderbox, which premiered at the Bush Theatre, and is a writer in residence for the women's prison theatre group Clean Break.

Goals "To write great parts for women. And to never bore an audience."

Greatest loves Language, Radio 4, and the revolving stage in the National Theatre's Wind in the Willows, which captivated her as a child.

Surprising fact She doesn't have a TV. "But I watch a lot on my laptop." Spoken like a true member of generation Skins.

'Hedda' is at the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, London W11 (020 7229 0706) until 27 September

Tom Rob Smith

Screenwriter and novelist

While studying at Cambridge, Tom Rob Smith wrote and staged his own plays. By the age of 20 he'd begun a career as a screenwriter, including a stint on Sky's Dream Team. Now 29, his first novel, Child 44, about a Russian serial killer, was long-listed for the 2008 Man Booker prize, causing one publisher to wonder aloud why a thriller had been nominated for an award usually seen as the reserve of literary fiction. Yet the book has been an international bestseller, film rights have been snapped up by Ridley Scott, and Smith won the Crime Writers' Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

What did you make of the Booker controversy? "I was surprised. I don't believe any writer really thinks books can be well written only if they are literary fiction."

Why did you abandon playwriting for screenwriting? "It was so difficult getting an audience [in the theatre]; I just wanted to work in a medium people get excited about."

The Man Booker shortlist will be announced on Tuesday

Gweneth-Ann Jeffers

Opera singer

Ever since she saw Figaro at Covent Garden when she was three, this articulate soprano wanted to be a singer. The piano lessons she started at four provided a basic musicianship, which she built on by studying composition at university.

Coquettish and grand, the 38-year-old's rise has been unstoppable since training with the Royal Opera. This season, she will follow Ravel's "Scheherazade" in Nuremberg with Messiaen at the Oxford Lieder Festival and Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, Senta in "The Flying Dutchman" at the Barbican, and Elektra with Opera North.

Inspirations "Leontyne Price's voice was phenomenal; she also proved that a black opera singer could become prima assoluta."

Is a good voice good enough? "Beautiful voices are 10-a-penny. It's what comes on top of that that counts. Are you simpatico? Does the audience take to you?"

Jeffers is at the Lieder Festival (01865 305 305) on 17 October; Bridgewater Hall (0161 950 0000) on 5 November; and in "The Flying Dutchman" at the Barbican (020 7638 8891) on 27 November

Andrea Riseborough


If there has been one name on the lips of every theatre, film and television director this year, it has been Andrea Riseborough, the Newcastle-born actress who has steadily been racking up a CV to make any Rada graduate green with envy.

Mike Leigh was "incredible" on Happy-Go-Lucky, as has been theatre director Peter Hall, a mentor of sorts. Kenneth Branagh - with whom she's currently working for the Donmar Warehouse production of Ivanov - is "wonderful". The 26-year-old Riseborough, meanwhile, has been gaining rave reviews for her no-holds-barred performances - in particular, her chameleon-like transformation into Margaret Thatcher for the recent BBC Four drama The Long Walk to Finchley.

Riseborough is also set to star in the Channel 4/HBO drama The Devil's Whore, about the English Civil War.

Favourite playwright The Bard, of course. "I didn't think anyone on the planet could make me fall more in love with Shakespeare than I already was, but Peter Hall did. I was awakened by him."

Are you all-or-nothing when it comes to acting? "God yeah. It's the way I enjoy working. I like to submerge myself, to be completely absorbed in what I'm doing."

Is it luck or hard work? "I love my work and I love working hard. But I feel lucky every day that in this capitalist society in which we live, one can make one's living doing what one loves."

'Ivanov' opens on Friday at the Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, London WC2, tel: 0870 060 6624,


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