November 17, 2011


Savage Style: Costumes from Lily's Wardrobe

Paul O'Grady's alter ego - the embittered housewife and occasional shoplifter Lily Savage - is one of the great comic creations of recent decades. Although she retired to a French convent in 2004, she made a triumphant return to the boards as Widow Twankey in Aladdin last Christmas. Highlights of her wardrobe include a sequinned, snow-leopard-print skirt suit; a gold, bingo-themed column dress; a pale blue and silver ballgown (worn on Blankety Blank); and a red, beaded column dress with matching cape (for her appearance as the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). Eleven of her finest costumes are now on display at the Walker Art Gallery and the Museum of Liverpool until 19 February 2012 as part of this year's Homotopia, the city's international festival of queer arts and culture.

The Devil in Music

BBC Radio 3, 19 November, 12.15-1.00pm

Composer Christopher Young's film scores include Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Hellraiser and Drag Me to Hell. Here he sets out to explore the tried-and-tested techniques for making an audience jump and discovers how his own scare tactics have their origins in the works of Wagner, Berlioz and Liszt. He examines the links between the devil and the violin, embodied in the life of Niccolo Paganini, and learns that Carl Maria von Weber's Der Frei-schütz (1822) includes what is perhaps the first horror scene in opera. Musicologist Maiko Kawabata and violinist Philippe Quint reflect on the devil's role in musical complexity, while Anthony Pryer, lecturer in music at Goldsmiths, University of London, dissects the unsettling nature of the tritone.


Reasons To Be Pretty

Greg is overheard admitting that his girlfriend Steph is no beauty, but that he wouldn't change her for the world. Although she is devastated, he can't see what he's done wrong. His best friend Kent, meanwhile, alternates between boasting about how gorgeous his wife, Carly, is and chasing after a hot new colleague. In a characteristically trenchant examination of the battle of the sexes, Neil LaBute explores our perception of beauty and asks whether it is as much of a curse to be conventionally attractive as it is to be considered ugly. The final part of a trilogy about society's obsession with looks, following on from The Shape of Things (2001) and Fat Pig (2008), Reasons To Be Pretty continues at the Almeida Theatre until 14 January 2012.


Grave Secrets: Tales of the Ancient Nubians

Grafton Elliot Smith (1871-1937), professor of anatomy at the University of Manchester, was one of the founders of palaeopathology, the study of ancient disease. It was he who coordinated the study of the bone specimens and artefacts excavated during the archaeological survey of Nubia (1907-11), ancient Egypt's southern neighbour. This exhibition at The Manchester Museum (19 November to 4 March 2012) reassembles much of this material, now dispersed across the country, to illuminate what we now know about Nubian health and disease, and how today's laboratories are continuing to decipher the secrets of long-lost lives. Striking excavation photographs from the museum's own collection are also on display.


Paul Noble: Welcome to Nobson

Paul Noble's intricate graphite drawings of Nobson Newtown, a place composed of labyrinthine edifices and deserted urban spaces embedded with modules of dense detail, represent the penultimate phase of his 15-year Nobson project. Visitors view dizzyingly complex phantasmagorical landscapes which allude to sources as diverse as ancient Chinese scrolls, Faberge eggs, Henry Moore sculptures and paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. Two towering biomorphic marble sculptures stand as sentries marking the entrance to the exhibition and the strange world within. Noble is one of those rare artists who can conjure up his very own autonomous sphere of reality. It can be experienced at the Gagosian Gallery until 17 December.

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