Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Hackney born, Harold Pinter, is to London's theatre world what a bottle of Amarone is to mine: peerless. With the recent success of Pinter's People, recognition as the greatest living British writer, the current hit Dumb Waiter (Trafalgar Studios) and next week's opening of The Caretaker (Tricycle Theatre), he is showing us who is boss.

But public ego rubs aside, there can be no greater respect for a writer than imitation. As such, the legacy of Harold Pinter is also being bigged up at The Young Writers Festival at the Royal Court where newbie Alexandra Wood's play, The Eleventh Capital (cast pictured here) has just opened. The plot centres around the dynamics of power in relationships and is very Pinteresque: obscene rage and deft silences. You can read a plot review in The Guardian today (here) or The Evening Standard (here.)

I found the 60 minute piece captivating, and left the Royal Court with a pre kick-off level of anticipation about theatre's life beyond Harold Pinter. Not to mention, the audience was young, trendy and very London. Not old, Tory and from the Shires. Could the future look any brighter?

The Eleventh Capital
Royal Court Theatre, Jerwood Theatre Upstairs
Until 10th March
£15, book here

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One helluva trip

There is no surer sign of age than when you start referring to yourself as young. This occurred to me at the weekend when a mate called someone of thirtysomething "old" and a chorus of us shrieked, in ever revealing unison, "thirtysomething, but that's so young!" We would never have said that at nineteen.

And today's subject of age was brought on by enjoying the Oscar coverage this year; not for the fashion (definitely not for the fashion), but because I recognised most of the faces. Move over London Lite lushes, and bring on talent and achievement. For a brief moment older women are being appreciated as being able to contribute in much the same way as men have for years now.

Owing to the current hyper-publicity surrounding the likes of Hillary Clinton and Helen Mirren (and her grey haired co-awards nominees including Meryl Streep, Judi Dench and Annette Benning) wisdom is proving more popular than youth. Perhaps, just perhaps, this year's older leading ladies will actually have a positive - and more to the point, lasting - effect on a society obsessed with youth?

Either way, with Dame Helen it's always one helluva trip:

Monday, February 26, 2007

Londoner's lips

It's Monday. It's February. Trains are crashing. We need distracting. And thankfully London's hippest new social interaction tool, Friday Cities, has come to our rescue. And its concept is rather simple, really. You just ask a question about life in London and other members answer it. Like a London version of Ask Jeeves. And answers come quickly which makes it addictive. Questions range from:

Who owns the weird silver box thing at Elephant & Castle?

The Naughty North or the Sexy South?

Where can I go to have my colon irrigated?

In a city not known for strangers talking, this has to be a beautiful thing. Dare we say, the stiff upper lip is quivering?

To join visit Fridaycities and enter the Invitation Code: j9pj5d7m054e

Friday, February 23, 2007

Carpe diem

Another one bites the dust. Another week that is, not a morbid reference to Prince Harry's fate now that he is off to Iraq. Although am I alone in wondering if he has confused Boujis with Basra? But this is hardly the time to make light of Iraq. Because with today's news of an impending US-UK sponsored 'Son of Star Wars', who can actually believe promises of a British endgame?

This week the future (of the world, not Britney again) feels horribly tenuous. Which is why we should live for the moment (or at least the weekend) and celebrate the 25th edition of City Slicker's 'Week's Action, Weekend Reaction'.

1) Incensed with rage over the determined military build-up and unjust war against Iraq when it is actually Al-Qaeda we are after? React by heading to the National Demonstration: No Trident/Bring the Troops Home. Because isn't silence acceptance? Assemble @ Speakers Corner, 12 Noon. Rally in Trafalgar Square 2:30PM. Saturday

2) Always fancied checking out the Barbican but needed a reason? React by indulging in its 25th birthday celebratory programme with an exhibit on Finland's master modernist architect Alvar Aalto or a show by Ireland's Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. Worth the trip to Moorgate. Runs until 13 May and 3 March, respectively.

3) Secretly pining for a try at Wii with news of their market power? React by catching the last weekend of the Game On exhibit at the Science Museum. For a small fee you get to play 120 classic and modern games for as long as you like, including Space Invaders and Pacman. Who knows when you will get another chance? Until Sunday. £8.50.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Best of Brit Blog Awards 07

I trust you are all too busy voting for City Slicker in the Best of Brit Blogs 2007 Awards, so I will leave you in peace. And I would give you a spiel about voting for the best blog which doesn't have to be this blog, yada yada yada. But that would be about as sincere as Britney is dry. So please nominate this blog here. Because if I lose, I, too, will stage my comeback from rehab. Just think of your guilt.

Nomination period ends 22 March 2007.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

London 2.0

Just when I thought as a blogger I was riding the crest of the Internet's future (c'mon, it's hump day and I need a motivational boost), comes along news from Wired magazine that London is hot again. Tech hot, that is. Not global warming hot. Climate chat was so January. No, now it's nearly March and London is unashamedly burning it up on the global stage as a new media giant. And they are calling the revolution 2.0. Or in less geek, more jock terms: London 2 Point 0.

And with the Future of Web Apps conference going on this week (FOWA) at the Kensington Conference Centre, there is no time like the present to practice saying "London 2.0" and make like you know what user-generated content is. Or, if you are really keen you can watch this brilliant screen tutorial. If only all blagging (and blogging) were this easy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The new black

Forget grey. Rehab is the new black. And I am not just referring to the current vogue for the old bait and switch known as Rehab. Over the last several months, rehabilitation has become the cure for a disease even more damaging to a public figure than substance abuse: Bad PR.

And if memory serves this all started with Mel Gibson who went to rehab for being a racist. Since him rehab has become little more than a red herring for public figures in want of attention. Rehab is supposed to be a place for people with real problems to seek help, not a publicity stunt for people whose problems are intolerance, flexible morality and the flash of a papparazzi's camera.

Am I the only one tired of the famous and the infamous trying to find fame in rehab redemption? I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz being told not to pay attention to the man behind the green curtain. Or in the words of Amy Winehouse, "they tried to make me go to rehab. I said no, no, no."

And after seeing Amy Wino's (sorry, too easy) awesome live performance (catch her if you can) last night at London's Astoria, I have assumed her as my new hero. Forget the gooey romanticism of Bridget Jones, dare I say Amy epitomises a new sort of feminism? Part vocal vamp, part north London Jewish girl, and part self-confessed alcoholic; Amy is all character. And that is why she is above making a mockery of rehab. I'll drink to that!

Amy's UK tour starts tomorrow.
Gig dates here.
London: 8/3, 9/3 (Shepherds Bush Empire)
NYC: 13/3 (Bowery Ballroom)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Commiseration Monday

Why do Monday mornings never seem to fail?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fashion unveiled

So we made it through. No, not insipid Valentine's Day, the day of ughs and kisses, but rather London Fashion Week. You know - the week when the Big Smoke is given over to people who wear sunglasses at night and think that Al-Qaeda is a boy band. The week when the media fears we will be seduced by the relentless stupidity of teenage girls not eating and smoking being cool.

Is it just me, or does Fashion Week just feels so un-London? It's as if we didn't already have our look worked out in skinny trousers and ruffled hair. So on that note, let's roll up the red carpet and roll out the 24th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction":

1) Has the descent of the international fashion cognoscenti left you searching for a calming option for your style fix? React by heading to the Face of Fashion exhibit which focuses on the portraits of five outstanding fashion photographers from Europe and America. This exhibition coincides with the unveiling of the official new portrait of Moss. National Portrait Gallery, 15 Feb-28 May, £8 (Oh, and click here to see Kate immortalised in wax).

2) Ashamed to admit a lingering curiosity about life as a real fashionista? React by heading to Frock Me! the vintage fashion fair where the entry fee is worth it just for the people watching - handbags at dawn for fashion magpies. Something for everyone, but leave reluctant shopping partners at home. Chelsea Town Hall, Kings Road. Sun 18 Feb (11am-5:30pm). £3

3) Excited by the Year of the Pig? React by heading to Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and of course, Chinatown; the most fun to be had is in following all the different lions and dragons as they dance outside different businesses. Also check out what the year holds for you in the Chinese horoscopes over at the British-Chinese website Dim Sum. Chinese New Years Parade. 11am. Sun 18 Feb.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Is Tory the new cool?

Can being Conservative ever be cool? How about being young and Conservative? Surely that is the equivalent of being old and horny: wrong on so many levels. But then what does one make of the new 15,000 member-strong young Conservatives group called Conservative Future (CF), the rebranded youth arm of the party?

How has the Tory party - an object of ridicule for nearly a decade - managed the resurrection of its student aged activists? It is worth remembering, young people in their early 20s now are too young to remember anything other than Blair's Britain. They can't recall the sleaze during the dying days of the Major years, and they couldn't care much about it anyway. Forget double-barrelled surnames, trust funds, and clipped voices: could being a young Tory even be a kind of rebellion?

Meet Mark Clarke, the national chairman of Conservative Future and just elected Conservative candidate from Tooting, here:

Or read his blog here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Dress Rehearsal

Rudolph Giuliani is running for president, it would seem. And it is never pretty, watching a politician revise himself in full view, and Mr. Giuliani is revising like mad. And then there is that video. Back in 2000, for a City Hall roast, Mr. Giuliani got himself dolled up in drag and made a video in which Donald Trump flirts with him. And say what you will about Ken (and yesterday many of you did), there is no video out there of London's mayor waltzing around in a long lavender gown and a brassiere, and blond wig, while an aging tycoon nuzzles his chest:

Don't get me wrong. This is not a major issue. There are plenty of bigger issues (like Guiliani's tolerance of police misbehavior and him marrying his cousin). But the video has a creepy fascination to it. The man in the lavender dress and the blond wig surely never contemplated running for president. It was the two planes hitting the towers a year later that made him a celebrity and then a candidate, nothing he had accomplished himself in public office.

Call me old-fashioned but the leader of the free world shouldn't feel a need to cross-dress. Putting on a flight suit and helmet is as far as he should go into the realm of fantasy. Surely? And they wonder why everyone says he is weird.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Where's the love?

Timing is everything. Or so life's serendipitous moments would suggest. As such, today's subject was inspired by my morning tube commute aside Mayor Ken. There is something about seeing a politician on public transport that is more humanising than any baby kissing. Especially when they look distinctly hung-over with a case of dry heaves.

But this is not the week for vitriolic pops at Red Ken. Not when Cameron is busy trying to convince us that the Tories really don't eat babies. Because what else do you make of their latest scheme to take away free bus travel for children? That's right, today is the eve of the Assembly slash and burn budget vote: an excuse for Tories to hit London's poorest families hardest by taking away free bus travel for kids.

Maggie Thatcher famously used to say, ‘When I see a man of 25 riding the bus, I see a man who has failed in his life’. It looks like the 'new' Conservatives think she was a bit soft. Who says there is ever a good age to ride the bus? Never mind that some 385,000 London children rely on it everyday to get to school. But, then again, who says all children have the right to an education? I wouldn't bet on the Tories.

What you can do to help:

The TUC in London has organised a lobby of City Hall, the Queen’s Walk, SE1 tomorrow (14 February, show your love for London) at 9am to defend free travel in the hour before the final budget-setting meeting. And they have also set up an online petition, details of which can be found by clicking here.

More information about this issue, is also available at the GLA website here.

Spread the love.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Who's the Daddy?

If you want to know what Tim Crouch's current (ex-Edinburgh Fringe) hit show, An Oak Tree, at the Soho Theatre is about, click here. For a glowing review read here and if you want to go deeper there is a work called An Oak Tree, by Michael Craig-Martin, which inspired the piece. It is weirdly mysterious as a play about death concerning two characters in which one character is played by the playwright, who hypnotizes the other character, played by a different actor every night, one who has had no previous knowledge of the script or what the play is about.

And without giving away much more, I will say that seeing this 60 minute play last night changed how I think about theatre forever (or at least saved me from the Sunday paper's love-in over Eton pot heads, a topic for another day). In some senses the death that is being explored in An Oak Tree is the death of that traditional realism in theatre, that ‘sleight of hand’. The audience and the play ‘meet’ to seek help from each other, to find a healing for the ‘loss’ they’ve suffered. Few contemporary plays are so forthright about the substitutions that theater makes and the audience cooperation it entails.

An Oak Tree is a dark, funny, often puzzling, often disturbing, and almost unwaveringly powerful night of theatre. Crouch strikes me not just as the Real Deal, but as someone who is completely on his own distinct path. After seeing An Oak Tree, I will keep paying attention to where this path leads. And you should, too.

An Oak Tree
Soho Theatre
Until 4 March
Tickets from £7.50

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Burning Issue

Despite apocalyptic warnings to the contrary, most of London avoided avalanches on their way to work this morning. And as global warming is the new religion, we could be forgiven for believing that this was the last snowfall ever. Bing Crosby, your dream is officially dead. And it is us, the sinners, who are too busy burning fuel, driving cars, heating offices, consuming goods and flying planes, to accept responsibility.

All of which makes for great timing as tonight the Pool of London will be hosting London's first ever festival of light - Switched On London. A number of sites alongside the river have been chosen - including London Bridge, HMS Belfast and the Tower of London - to be temporarily lit in dramatic and theatrical ways by some of the best lighting designers and manufacturers in the UK. All of which is timed to coincide with the architectural lighting show, ARC show, at the Business Design Centre. The festival also includes sustainable street lights powered by donkey dung (which has nothing on hair salon, Hari's, bull semen hair treatment!) The aim is to get Londoners thinking about energy use at night and to promote the responsible use of light for urban improvement.

Apparently all of the festival lighting costs less to run than the building's usual illuminations. Which begs the question: is the festival more about saving jobs for lighting maunfacturers or saving energy? Because surely the best answer is to just switch off?

Switched on London, Pool of London
8th-16th February
4PM to Midnight

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

What Would Banksy Do?

There are some days when only YouTube will do: today is one. This short film, Defaced, explores the relationship between art and corporate advertising in public space - one of the few times I have linked one day's topic to the previous (or what management lingoists - not to be confused with linguists - call 'joined-up thinking'). It is the story of a man, trapped in the confines of a corporate poster, who tries to escape and become part of the street art on the opposite wall. Although the street art is free, it is condemned and usually destroyed to make way for advertising, a risk he is willing to take to be with the stencilled girl on the other side. Surely this is the hipster substitute for What would Jesus do?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Art zoos

As predicted, this week London is at the centre of the art world. With last night's Impressionist and Modern sale at Sotheby's fetching a record breaking £95 million (or 16% of the Gherkin) and tomorrow evening's Contemporary sale still to go (click here for a private view tour) ; one could be forgiven for forgetting that true art is priceless. Or, at least that its currency is derivative of public appreciation not private consumption.

Which must be why street art has moved from the pride of skateparks to the top of buyer's hit lists. You only need to look at Banksy on sale in Sotheby's to see how far from starving are today's best street artists. And so it is with precision timing that London's counterculture has a place to come in from the cold this week, at the just opened exhibition of urban art, In Selected Stores Only,where art from five of the best talents in the graffiti form are on display. All artists are exhibiting brand-new works in this must-see show which includes French "guerrilla artist," Space Invader, who has created nearly 100 strange, mosaic tile works (pictured here) on the streets of London. (Read a personal interview with Space Invader here).

While street artists' interventions are illegal, at least the motive in many cases is addition--to add a question or a surprise to a city street. Which is my only reservation about removing street art from the street: the act of removal. Surely guerrilla art is not suited to life in a gallery, the zoos of the art world?

In Selected Stores Only
Elms Lester Painting Rooms
1-5 Flitcroft Street, WC2
020 7836 6747
Until 24 Feb (Mon-Sat: 12-6PM, Thurs to 9PM)

Monday, February 05, 2007


I was caught off guard yesterday when pinned for an opinion on Lily Allen after her weekend appearance on Saturday Night Live and new hit single. As if there was an option other than punctured apathy for London's MySpace mistress with a peculiar quality of lyricism (“It makes me SMILE / I feel bad for a WHILE").

I know that every year music critics start stroking it over a female musician to generate industry buzz. In 2006 it was Lily Allen and 2007 looks to be the same. Except this year the object of their desire is going to shift units, and ends with a song called “Alfie” that makes you lose faith in this country, a horrific “supply teacher trying to act cool to his third period class” piece of “yeah, weed makes you TIRED, innit blood” that destroys any hope that Allen could have been something:


But maybe I am still prejudiced from reading her interview in Observer Music Monthly when she discussed her “hard” childhood. What form did her distressing youth take? Apparently, sometimes her parents embarrassed her at dinner parties, and every now and then she got told off for handing her homework in late. Jesus wept.

And none of this would be remotely relevant if it wasn't for the fact that her personality shines through so blindingly in her music. Lily prides herself on it, and on how "real" she is. On her MySpace page, in between slagging off minimum wage service staff in restaurants for not sufficiently fawning over her; she’s off on her bike, pausing to “laugh” at an OAP getting mugged outside Tesco.

But anyway, who over age 16 is lily-livered enough to need their music classified as "real?" Lily Allen is a coddled kid who ain't lived it—she witnessed it from her folks pad. Scribbled in her notepad and created her life. That's how the song goes, right?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dirty Harry

Shock, horror. No, not at the news of yet another Harry Potter sequel, which to muggle virgins generates much less excitement than Harry Potter posing naked with horses (rather disturbing clip here, if you must). But rather it is the catch phrase of the week, dare I suggest? From ExxonMobil making Faustian deals with scientists, Blair fighting for survival, mice shutting down an east London hospital, and Wacko Jacko's kid being demasked: this week has offered much of the unexpected. So rather than toy with our expectations any further, here is the dependable 23rd edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Excited by news that the NFL is coming to town later this year? React by celebrating SuperBowl Sunday, but avoid the most obvious choice and go for the full Stateside experience at the London Expat American Party . The Walkabout on the Embankment at Temple Place. £10. Sunday from 10PM.

2) Disturbed that today's report on global warming must mark the end of your climate change denial? React by finally smartening up at the Saatchi sponsored Waste and Natural World exhibit at The Gallery at Adventure Ecology. 125 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. 020 7758 4717. Free.

3) Always fancied yourself performing a pirouette but never quite hit the stage? React by starring in a virtual, interactive performance of Swan Lake this weekend at Trafalgar Square c/o the ICA. Every time a person steps into the performance area a spotlight shines on them and they are free to move alongside the ethereal corps. Best after a few pints. Today + Sat (5-10PM). Trafalgar Square. Free.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mea culpa

Today's breaking news about Tony being questioned by the police for a second time, reminded me of Big Brother. Not the one from 1984, mind you, but the one from Channel 4 - the programme that attracts desperate people so far removed from reality that they actually go on a reality show.

Fool that I am, I used to believe that reality television shows were democratic and fun. No longer. At the moment, the Big Brother franchise is holed below the waterline having exposed the manipulative lengths it will go to avoid the telly scrapheap. Why then don't the participants seem to realise that they are merely cannon fodder; goons to be manipulated by rich television companies, which will use them in the eternal race for cheap programming, fatter profits and a bigger audience share?

And that is why the current Blair witch hunt is not dissimilar to the public lynching of Jade Goody. So if Levy gets done, will somebody please convince Tony to check into rehab? Everybody else is.

With such Labour troubles amidst, it was with blessed timing that yesterday marked the opening of From Major to Minor at The Political Cartoon Gallery. This brilliant exhibition doesn't feature the Milk Snatcher herself, but does chart the downward Tory spiral since she left office. Until 17 March.

The Political Cartoon Gallery
32 Store Street, London, WC1
0207 580 1114