By Alistair Farrow
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Philippines political travel book is a punishing read

This article is over 5 years, 8 months old
Issue 2631
Rodrigo Duterte—“The Punisher”
Rodrigo Duterte—“The Punisher”

Is Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte—“The Punisher”—part of the global rise of the racist right? Or is his rule a distinct, grotesque weirdness all of its own?

Tom Sykes’ new political travel book explores some of the contradictions that led to Duterte’s election victory.

However, it is light on explanations.

Sykes points out that Duterte has torn up the political rule book in the Philippines.

In a country with deep Catholic roots, criticising the Pope should presumably be avoided.

Duterte called him a “son of a bitch”, and attacked god as “stupid”.


His support went up. Yet there is little by way of explanation in the book.

People looking for engaging travel writing should also go elsewhere.

Sykes veers from anecdote to anecdote with little context to bridge between them. Stitched on to the anecdotes is political analysis which is loose at best.

In among the seemingly random anecdotes about drinking with minor royals or going to shopping centres are interesting observations about the modern Philippines.

But it’s difficult to know what Sykes thinks, other than he is at pains to appear right-on.

Perhaps political travel writing isn’t more common for a reason.

The Realm of the Punisher, by Tom Sykes. Signal Books, £12.99


This stage musical adaptation of Anais Mitchell’s 2016 folk opera concept album tells a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.

It sees Orpheus travel to the underworld to rescue his fiance Eurydice, but is transported to the era of the Great Depression.

The show takes an old story and brings out elements that hint at problems people face today.

National Theatre, Upper Ground, South Bank, London SE1 9PX. Until 26 January

The Other side of the wind

Orson Welles’ last film was finally released this year, after he began filming it in 1970.

John Huston stars as the famous film-maker who returns after years in self-exile to make a comeback movie.

It’s a satire on the film industry and Hollywood.

Directed by Orson Welles. On Netflix and on limited release in cinemas now


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