On my radar: Anjana Vasan’s cultural highlights

Born in Chennai, India in 1987, Anjana Vasan grew up in Singapore before relocating to the UK to study drama. She has starred in films including Mogul Mowgli and Wicked Little Letters; her stage credits include Tanika Gupta’s production of A Doll’s House (Lyric Hammersmith, 2019) and Rebecca Frecknall’s A Streetcar Named Desire (Almeida, 2022-23), for which she won an Olivier award and an Evening Standard theatre award. Vasan has been nominated for Baftas for her TV work in Black Mirror and Nida Manzoor’s comedy We Are Lady Parts; series two returns to Channel 4 on 30 May.

1. Play

Machinal at the Old Vic, London

‘I could not take my eyes off her’: Rosie Sheehy in Machinal at the Old Vic. Photograph: Manuel Harlan

Machinal, by playwright Sophie Treadwell, takes inspiration from a case that happened in 1920s America, of a young woman called Ruth Snyder who murdered her husband, and her very public court case and execution. This is one of the best productions I’ve seen in a while: it’s taut and clear and uncomfortable. I felt it on a visceral level rather than as an intellectual experience. Even though the play is very unsentimental, in a brilliant way, I felt so much watching it, largely due to Rosie Sheehy’s central performance was electric – like an exposed cable. I could not take my eyes off her.

2. Cookbook

Japan: The Cookbook by Nancy Singleton Hachisu (Phaidon)

This book was a gift from my boyfriend. It’s written by an American who has lived in Japan since the 1980s and is married to a Japanese man, and she’s very much entrenched in the culture. Rather than a definitive expert on Japanese cooking, she presents herself as a conduit – she spent years getting to know not just chefs and experts, but grandmothers from different regions of Japan. I am quite intimidated by this book, but I’ve got my eye on the miso, aubergine and peppers recipe, and at some point I will attempt the udon noodles.

3. TV

Shōgun, Disney+

Incredible performances: Shōgun. Photograph: Courtesy of FX Networks

I haven’t been as invested in a TV show since Succession. The performances are incredible: the leads Hiroyuki Sanada and Anna Sawai, but also Moeka Hoshi and Tadanobu Asano. It’s historical fiction, which takes this character of John Blackthorne, an English sailor who is lost and shipwrecked in Japan and somehow ends up being part of all the political machinations that are going on. I want more TV like this, where I’m watching something through a different cultural lens to mine.

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Isaac Chotiner. Photograph: newyorker.com

4. News

Q&A series by Isaac Chotiner for the New Yorker

This series on Gaza has been illuminating. It’s very sobering and depressing reading, but also necessary and important. Isaac Chotiner is a very skilled interviewer, going deep behind the headlines to really understand the specific problems and challenges. The last one I read was about unexploded ordnance and mines – there are now more in Gaza than anywhere in the world since at least the second world war.

5. Food

Oh Spaghetti + Tiramisu, London SE15

Hidden gem: Oi Spaghetti. Photograph: Oi Spaghetti

This was an accidental find. I was walking through Copeland Park in Peckham when I saw this tiny little shed: it’s a charming restaurant run by Francesco, who is also the waiter and chef. It’s clearly a labour of love for him: it’s only open for a few hours in the evening, Mondays to Fridays. There are three starters, and only spaghetti as the main – I went for the mushroom, cream and truffle, and it was one of the best plates of spaghetti I’ve ever had. Then dessert is tiramisu. It’s one of my favourite hidden gems I’ve discovered in London.

A ring by Kastur Jewels.

Beaver Jewels, London W1

I walked past a store in Marylebone and saw this ring that looked a lot like something I inherited from my grandmother when she passed. I don’t own a lot of jewellery, but the few pieces I have, I like to feel I will keep them for ever. Kastur’s jewellery is inspired by heirloom pieces, and there’s a real range of prices – more high-end pieces but also a lot that are much more affordable. The two I bought are enamel: handpainted stud square earrings, and small golden pearl hoops. They feel like pieces you wish you’d inherited.

7. Art

Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue RiderTate Modern

Riding Couple by Wassily Kandinsky. Photograph: Lenbachhaus Munich, Donation of Gabriele Münter, 1957

I really loved this exhibition. There’s something about the colours: I read a review that said they’re colours you want to lick, and I agree – they’re very vivid blues and greens and purples. For me, art can sometimes feel like a time capsule, but the art in this exhibition felt very alive, especially the portraits. Kandinsky is someone whose work I’ve seen online but never up close. I loved his Riding Coupleand some of the Robert Delaunay pieces. And what’s lovely is that it’s not just paintings – there’s sculpture, photography and music. It was beautiful.


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