Her Maj: 60 Years of Unofficial Portraits of the Queen
As late as the 1950s, it was still unusual for the monarchy to be depicted in cartoons. To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, the Cartoon Museum is mounting an exhibition (until 8 April) to track how Elizabeth II emerged from near invisibility, was first shown in ways that echoed her official image on coins and stamps, and has since been portrayed in a huge variety of styles, from the affectionate and teasing to the critical and downright unflattering. Eighty works by more than 30 cartoonists, including Steve Bell, Nicholas Garland, Mac, Martin Rowson, Ralph Steadman and Trog, show her in robes of state or as an "ordinary housewife", coping with difficult official visits, a gaffe-prone husband, family marital problems and press intrusion.
Cotton: Global Threads
Cotton was the world's first global commodity. Its story spans centuries and continents and proved a catalyst for some crucial developments in modern history, yet it is also tightly linked with slavery, exploitation and the excesses of capitalism. This exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery (11 February to 13 May) redisplays its major textile collection and juxtaposes material dating from the Middle Ages with specially commissioned works by artists such as Yinka Shonibare and Lubaina Himid. A section entitled "Trade Goods" examines India's extensive trade networks before the centre of cotton production shifted to Western Europe; "Technological Revolution" looks at the impact of spinning and weaving technology in Lancashire; and "Moral Fibre" considers cotton's "dirty secrets", such as its human and environmental impact.
A Tribute to Adonis
Now in his early eighties, the Syrian poet Adonis had no formal education until he was given a scholarship as a teenager, after he impressed the president with one of his poems. Long based in Beirut but exiled to France after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, he is now widely regarded as the greatest living poet writing in Arabic and was awarded the prestigious Goethe Prize in 2011. Yet Adonis remains a contentious figure, as when he offered a number of cautionary and even critical comments on the Arab Spring. This exhibition at The Mosaic Rooms, which continues until 30 March, brings together more than 100 exquisite ink drawings, many of them incorporating fragments of his poetry in calligraphic form.
The Recruiting Officer
From military manoeuvring to sexual stratagems, George Farquhar's The Recruiting Officer, written in 1706, is an unashamed celebration of love, lustiness and victory in battle and the bedroom. When Captain Plume comes to Shrewsbury to recruit men for the King's army, he has high hopes of money, glory and adventure. He also hopes to make a conquest of Sylvia. Meanwhile, Captain Brazen thinks he is wooing Sylvia's cousin Melinda, little knowing that it is really her maid Lucy in disguise. Mix in a bit of cross-dressing, assault charges and a fake fortune-teller who summons up a fake devil, and the hilariously ingenious plot gets ever more tangled before it is eventually unravelled. Josie Rourke's new production runs at the Donmar Warehouse until 14 April.
Bolton and touring
As portrayed by Michael Caine in the famous 1966 film, Alfie Elkins is one of the archetypal characters of the "swinging 1960s" - a working-class chancer with a new girl every Saturday night who, as his life begins to fall apart, starts to wonder "what's it all about?" Local dramatist Bill Naughton (1910-92) wrote the first play ever to be performed at the Octagon Theatre in Bolton, and it is there that his most famous work can be seen until 18 February. David Thacker's production will then tour to the New Victoria Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme (22 February-17 March), the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough (20-31 March), The Dukes, Lancaster (3-7 April) and the Grange Arts Centre, Oldham (11-28 April).