Arts: Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
IN A rare foray into the social whirl, I found myself at the Chelsea Arts Ball, given by the Chelsea Arts Club in aid of the Aids Crisis Trust (and itself). It was a fancy-dress do - come as a character from your favourite painting. I plumped for Magritte's Son of Man - the familiar fellow in the bowler hat, with an apple in front of his face. The hat and the apple weren't hard to find, and some gardener's wire fixed them together. The red tie I had, the bank clerk's overcoat came from Oxfam. The apple, bobbing about in front of my nose, made conversation difficult, but I was rather pleased with the effect, until I got to the Albert Hall and found that six other people had had the same idea.

Great lengths had been gone to with the costumes, and the parade of the 60 finalists was something to see: a strolling history of art, from Rembrandt's Woman Reading to Matisse's Danse, from The Laughing Cavalier to Warhol's Marilyn, via a St Sebastian, peppered with arrows, whose martyrdom ran to being left out of the shortlist of 11. The judges did better with the winners - Marilyn, who had dyed herself a blinding shade of beetroot, and a man who came as Magritte's Healer, with cane, cape, birdcage, lifelike doves, and cooing tape-recorder. Where he'd put his torso, I was unable to work out.

There was only one thing wrong with the evening: the music. The bill was promising - Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, and sundry all-stars. Shirley was early, and I missed her. The Jones boy was late, and great. Everything in between was misjudged. It stopped and started like a bad TV recording, and spanned a testing range of tempos: the Stranglers' 'Golden Brown', Elvis Costello's 'I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down', Mica Paris's 'I Put a Spell on You'. The musical director was Dave Gilmour, guitarist with Pink Floyd, which went to show that he who directs the music plays the solos. I'm all for widening the scope of dance music, but I defy anyone to shake a coherent leg to 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond'.

No sooner had Tom Jones got going than on came Amanda Lear, the erstwhile disco queen, with some of the Chippendales, for a mime-and-dance routine which was dying of embarrassment long before the chief dancer felt the need to whip off his thong and show us his thang. I suppose the main thing about a charity ball is that it should raise money, and at pounds 25 a head (minimum) this one evidently did. It was just a shame that the best entertainment was laid on by the paying public.

TALKING of entertainment, Friday night saw the return of LWT's live show of that ilk, Dial Midnight. The main feat of the last series - half way from a phone-in to a freak show - was to make The Word look professional. Though the title of Worst Programme on Television is bandied about too much, Dial Midnight has to be a candidate - especially now James Whale has joined as roving reporter. Radio Times calls him 'irreverent'; I call him intolerably brusque. Will Dial Midnight go the same way as the late, unlamented James Whale Radio Show?

A CALL from TVS in Reading this week pointed out that the town's lone entry in our directory of discount stores (Sunday Review, 10 May and 7 June) was a secondhand shop, Music Man. Is there really no shop in Reading that discounts new CDs? If you know of

one, please get in touch. And wherever you are, please remember - don't pay full price if you can help it.