Litvinenko’s story is coming back to the small screen

David Tennant is being lined up to play the murdered Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in a TV drama. Following Litvinenko’s poisoning in London in 2006, the case has since proved popular for adaptation and retelling.

A play, A Very Expensive Poison, about his assassination has just opened at the Old Vic, itself loosely based on the book of the same name by Guardian journalist Luke Harding. Now ITV has a script from George Kay, who penned two episodes of Killing Eve, and whose 12-part drama, Criminal, premieres on Netflix later this month.

Tennant, a former Doctor Who, a cop from Broadchurch, and now a lead in Criminal, is favoured as Litvinenko. The TV series is itself based on Channel 4’s 2017 documentary Hunting the KGB Killers, whose producer, Richard Kerbaj, is behind the ITV series, along with drama veteran Patrick Spence.

Orazio Gentileschi’s The Finding of Moses has hung in the National Gallery since 2002. Graham Kirkham, who made his fortune with the furniture firm DFS, is believed to have owned the baroque masterpiece for two decades, and he is now selling it. Kirkham, a Tory donor ennobled in 1999, has not gone to an auction house, where it would probably have been sold abroad, but chosen to give the National first dibs. Easily Britain’s wealthiest gallery, the National can afford the price tag of around £35m.

JMW Turner’s The Dark Rigi.

These days, however, many owners do not give British galleries a decent chance to buy. So, in August alone, the government placed export bars on three very pricey works that had been in private hands – Monet’s Le Palais Ducal, Turner’s The Dark Rigi and Millais’s Ferdinand Lured by Ariel. All had been bought through British auction houses by foreign buyers, helped by a weak pound to make them a comparative snip. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport imposed these bars to give galleries a few months to find the cash to match the overseas bids.

However, one weakness in the system is that any work can be withdrawn by the buyer from an interested gallery during the money-raising period – rather like a house deal can be reneged upon before exchange of contracts. This loophole has led to 13 works being withdrawn over the past decade before a British gallery could raise the cash. The most notable example was Pontormo’s Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap. In that instance it was the National Gallery that then missed out.

Tessa Hadley.

Tessa Hadley is, I reckon, Britain’s most stylish and perceptive living female novelist. But none of her seven novels, including her most recent, Late in the Day, has ever been longlisted for the Booker prize. Maybe because she examines family relationships and (shock, horror) the middle classes, she is overlooked by judges too often won over by the flashy and the lengthy. So, in last week’s Booker shortlist, there is Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte, a retelling of Don Quixote in the modern-day US, and Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann, an eight-sentence monologue of 1,000 pages.

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