Culture Critic Phoebe Hughes-Broughton discusses three of her culture favourites in the Culture Corner

Aspiring author.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I first came across this book around 2010, at the age of 12, 7 years after it had first been published. I had started secondary school and was discovering my love for English Literature and reading novels in general, and the word “curious” in the title really did pique my curiosity. When I read it, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, and yet I was captivated.

The novel is told from the perspective of Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old boy who says he has some ‘behavioural difficulties.’ Although it is primarily written as a first-person novel, it includes diagrams and illustrations that put you inside Christopher’s mind, and help you to understand not only his perspective on the world but that of many people on the autism spectrum. This new take on the novel format intrigued me, and over the years as I’ve come back to this book it has encouraged me to be more creative in my own writing and more experimental with how I demonstrate the inner workings of other people’s minds. Although this book mainly follows Christopher’s journey to uncover what happened to the dog in the night- time, it also explores his family relationships and the stories behind the friction between the people around him, something which I have always endeavoured to explore in my own work. 

I’m now much more open-minded about improvised comedy

Mischief Movie Night

This is the most recent theatre production I’ve seen, as well as one of the best. Before seeing this show, I was a bit of a snob about comedy on stage and improvisation in particular, but the Mischief Theatre group soon changed that. The premise is that the audience is watching a film alongside the character of Oscar, who has a DVD library of every film that ever has, will, or possibly could exist. The audience requests a genre and a few details of what should happen in the film, and the cast are left to invent an hour-long play. It’s a simple premise, but Oscar’s quick wit and the cast’s perfect comedic timing had us in fits of laughter from minute one, and it was an incredible night that I won’t forget in a hurry.

the exhibit inspired me to open my eyes to more experimental forms of art

 After watching the heist film set in a doughnut factory that we requested, I went home to check out everything else that Mischief Theatre have done – including two BBC Christmas specials, ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’ and ‘A Christmas Carol Goes Wrong’ – and it’s safe to say I’m now much more open-minded about improvised comedy.

David Hockney: A Bigger Picture Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2012

When I attended this exhibit with my mother I was only 14 years-old, but I already had a pretty good idea of what ‘art’ is meant to look like, particularly landscapes which this exhibit revolved around. Seeing a gallery full of drawings using the medium of an iPad, then, was quite a shock to me, even more so to discover that they had been done by a then- 75-year-old man; and yet, they were incredibly detailed. Although I lack any semblance of artistic talent myself, the exhibit inspired me to open my eyes to more experimental forms of art, and to see the beauty in all mediums, not just traditional oil on canvas. It also highlighted the beauty of the Great British landscape, particularly with Hockney’s works tracking a single location through the various seasons, and it has made me ever more grateful to live in this great nation of variety and beauty. Plus, seeing the seasons laid out before me was a nice reminder me that our weather can do more than just rain.