Friday, March 30, 2007

Naming and shaming

The Middle East is at war. Brits are being held hostage in Iran and 100,000 more children are falling into poverty. But significance is over-rated on Fridays. And Becks has a new haircut: the retro-style quiff. Which given his history of cornrows and Mohicans lands pretty low on this week's shameless-and-proud scale. Even lower than Midd's well-staged media tantrum. Will somebody please tell the Royals the Queen is dead.

Tittle-tattle about ordinary folk is so much more colourful. Which is why this week the scales were tipped (literally) by the drunk student who fell through a skylight and thought: "I'll sue my landlord." And on today's frivolous Friday note, let's indulge in the 28th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Did the crash and burn of the affluent-targeted So London rag leave you less than surprised? React by heading to the Museum of London for an exhibition on the real Great Fire and learn how it shaped the city we have today. Find out more here. Until 29 Dec.

2) Emboldened by news that the founder of the Big Issue plans to run for London Mayor? React by heralding human determination and head to "The Art of Survival" at the Crisis Skylight centre, an exhibit of 30 homeless artists whose work is being exhibited for sale. 66 Commercial St, E1. Until Sunday

3) Fancy a trip to the National Theatre but not enticed by the current offerings? React by heading to the Performing Arts Book & Ephemera Fair there this Saturday where 15 dealers will be selling wares from the world of entertainment. Sat 10:30am-7:15pm.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

MC Rove

Just when I started to fear London was ridden with disturbing Americans, came Karl Rove - the deviously dorky architect (think Satan not Jesus) of Bush's two campaigns commonly dubbed "Bush's Brain" or as Dubya calls him,"Turd Blossom," a Texas phrase describing a flower that grows in manure - breaking it down with the improv maestros from Who's Line is it Anyway? at a banquet in Washington last night. For once I am speechless:

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Relationship journalism

Having started the New Year with a cultural detox, I now lurch from my perch unabashed. Today I surrender to a yearned for dalliance.

Plastered across the Daily Hate Mail on Monday were photos of Hugh and Jemima accompanied by a headline as to their rekindled romance. Now you don't need Martin Bashir to unravel the politics of their relationship: just look at the body language. Their on and off relationship should only ever be off.

And you can do the same the sleb set over. Just look at Wills and Midds. Did this week's "colourful copy" threaten anything? Of course not. For exactly the reasons that Hugh's and Jemima's did. We have seen them together enough to know it has only ever been on. Call it insipid but Hello and OK!'s thriving business models rely on it: relationship journalism and its appeal is pretty easy to fathom. In today's Bowling Alone society, rumourings about Lindsay Lohan's lurkings are as good as we get to village gossip. And I would argue it's healthy.

So what if we delve more into vapid stranger's sordid habits than our own? It's nothing new. The News of the World which gleefully reported aristicratic sex scandels in the 19th century, first appeared in the same year as Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Surely life can't be all reflection and no deflection?

And on that note, today marks the opening of celebrity childhood dreams portrayed at The Hospital's When I Grow Up exhibition. 10am-7pm. 24 Endell St, WC2. Free

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Communication Breakdown

Today's image is a shrapnel of irony in the wake of historic news from Northern Ireland and images many thought they would never see: Ian Paisley sitting with Gerry Adams to embrace devolution.

This landmark agreement is said to be the crowning achievement for Blair’s 10 years in office and the fulfilment of a crucial objective for his legacy. While George W. Bush threatens to expand his warmongering into Iran, in Northern Ireland the Good Friday Accord bears fruit. The “immoral” president makes peace. The “man of God” makes war. Irony is dead.

Does this mean Blair is no longer Bush's poodle but an Irish setter? Sadly, it may well be too late. However, as someone who once supported him and has since become one of his many critics, I am pleased to concede that, at last, Blair has something on his legacy that does not say "Iraq."

Monday, March 26, 2007

Afghanistan: one story the U.S. isn't buying

Stella Artois beer is Belgian. In Belgium it is so cheap and plentiful, they could refill the canals of Bruges with its gaseous flows.

In the UK, it's marketed as an expensive and sophisticated Gallic brew - the kind of thing one might order to impress Emmanuelle Béart. It's an old trick: same product, different markets.

From left-wing America's on-line bible, the Huffington Post - a tale of two magazines, Time and Newsweek - worldly to the world, homely to the folks at home...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

London vs New York? Bovvered?

As a London born ex-New Yorker now living in London you can imagine my orgasmic (how unsexy is that word when used out of context?) and unbridled excitement for the cover story of this week's New York magazine: London vs. New York. In mere column inches the 21st century's clash of culture capitals was to be decided.

As any Londoner worth a £3 a minute cab ride will tell you, London 2007 is as good as it gets. From the Tate to Topshop, the Southbank to Spitalfields, the Olympics to the Old Vic - London is a helluva town. And New York magazine is at no pains to recognise this, going so far as to ingratiate us with "in short, New York is cardiganed Woody Allen, and London is party-dressed Lily Allen." Now, doesn't that just make you smile? Except I was thinking New York is more tough talking toreador Tony Soprano and London is S&M Willy Wonka Russell Brand. Surely?

So what did New York magazine actually decide, you ask? Let's just say the coin was definitely weighted. In today's age of die another day magazine sales a publication entitled New York was always an unlikely bedfellow for bigging up Blighty's bonanza. And as for what I think? I just hope that today's opening of London's first Abercrombie & Fitch store isn't an indication of direction. Certainly chinos are for daytime golfing in the burbs, not all-night boozing at the local.

So, is it London or New York? You decide. I love both equally and individually like children. Or like a parent I convince myself. No, forget column inches on the subject. The next time somebody posits the two all I need is one word -"bovvered?"

For New York magazine articles click here

Abercrombie & Fitch
7 Burlington Gardens, W1
Opens Today

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Heading out for an evening at Sadler's Wells yesterday, I was hardly expecting to fall in love. I was simply trudging along to join the masses of Guardian touting Islington Blairites to what was reputed to be the wonder dance bill of the year: PUSH. And did it deliver.

Sylvie Guillem is an extraordinary dancer and Russell Maliphant one of Europe's trendiest choreographers. His work challenges her body and her brain; therein laying the root of my newfound love for the pair. There's a solo for her, a solo for him, another solo for her, then a duet. No sets, no live music, no special effects other than lighting, yet the cumulative effect is as sophisticated as one could wish. This is intimate stuff, even in the vastness of Sadler's Wells. People were jammed shoulder-to-shoulder and all you could hear was a holding of breath (and slurpings of Sauvignon).

The climax comes with the finale - the duet. In the rapt opening moments it's clear the mood will be proud and sensuous, a meeting of strangers as equals. Guillem crouches and uncoils her body down the length of Maliphant's back, and just at that moment the sound score hints at an ancient world, and I suddenly saw the pair as Helen of Troy and Paris.

If there was ever a time appropriate for the word 'sinuous', this was it. The potent duet that suggests many kinds of relationship - marital, artistic, sacred - lays bare the elements of trust both physically and emotionally that all relationships require.

As Annie Lennox sang: "Sweet dreams are made of this."
Who am I to disagree?

Sadler's Wells
Until 25 March
Book here, Tickets £13-£40

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Glass Curtain

Ask me who wrote the play I saw this past Saturday and her name will likely mean very little to you. For now. But I will tell you it because Lucy Caldwell (pictured here) is clearly a name to watch. And a name I would like to thank, for alongside Georgia Fitch I have cause to believe in young women again. Okay, maybe Amy Winehouse deserves a mention but that is more a schadenfreude-inspired ode to my drinking habits than any enduring creative mantle.

No the big and, as yet, largely untold story of London's theatre world is that the playwrights who are most interesting to read and see now, the ones who are really pushing the work forward aesthetically, are largely women. And there is no better evidence than Belfast-born Caldwell's play, 'Leaves', currently playing at the Royal Court Upstairs. But don't just take my word for it. As if! 'Leaves' was sold out this past Saturday evening which was both before press night and on St. Patrick's Day: a double whammy that should have quashed ticket sales. Which either means the twenty-five year old (anybody else feel like a dud?), award winning playwright's reputation stands before her, or Saturday nights in London are suddenly about imbibing theatre not Guinness. I know where my suspicion lies.

'Leaves' is a family drama that sees three teenage girls struggling to define who they are and where they are going. Set against the backdrop of The Troubles it begs the question of how far our place of upbringing impacts on our lives. As such, it was with delicious irony that I stood next to the forlorn Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare in the box office queue.

Royal Court Upstairs
to April 7
Book here; tickets £10-£15

Monday, March 19, 2007

Comic disbelief

Was anyone else unnerved by just how well Blair managed to act out his part, in the "Am I Bovvered" diatribe to Catherine Tate on Comic Relief? Does it not raise questions over just when he is acting the rest of the time? Still, seeing his smug, self-congratulatory smirk as he joined in the frolics, I couldn't help but think of his potential response to public opinion against his policies:

"Am I bovvered? Thousands dead and social chaos after unjustified imperialist invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan? Bovvered? Millions lobbying against Trident? Face – bovvered? Reform of the House of Lords, telling the nation when I'm actually stepping down rather than stringing you along like brain-dead drones, student tuition fees, the disintegrating NHS,...Voters…bovvered…public opinion… I ain't bovvered!"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Saving Mankind

Seb Coe has announced the first official sponsor of the 2012 London Olympics - a race of globe trotting children known only as Brangits:

"Since first discovering that the Brangits had populated on Earth and promised to be nothing but helpful to the cause of London's 2012 Olympic bid we have kept things under wraps. We were of course initially wary of the intentions of such a highly advanced breed", Lord Coe told a murder of shocked journalists this afternoon.
"But even the most skeptical among us (Steve Cram) are convinced of their peaceful intentions now that Olympic codebreakers have begun to translate one of the Brangit's colouring books, promisingly entitled Saving Mankind along with a smaller pamphlet, Hunger as a Side Dish.

Further more the Brangits have promised to share their advanced technology. Although they suggested to eradicate hunger, disease and the need for warfare, we on the 2012 committee decided that the first priority should be... erm... me winning a gold in the 1,500 metres."

Actually that's rubbish. It was really Lloyds TSB, but that's just dull.

Normal service resumes Monday...I am currently in Cannes working at the London Stand of the MIPIM conference.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Whimpering Heights

"I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen's novels at so high a rate, which seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in their wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world..." said American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1861. But hey, what did he know?

Jane Austen had already been dead for 44 years when Emerson took it upon himself to slate her. If he was fed up of her back then (and he was by no means the only detractor), imagine how he'd feel at the knowledge that nearly two hundred years after her death, she's as popular as ever. Perhaps more so.

So just how have her six stories from the early 19th century continued to find an audience? And why aren't we bored of Jane Austen yet?

Handsome, privileged and/or emotionally stunted men; beautiful, witty and/or neurotic women; the middle and upper classes at play; a materially-obsessed world; the underlying rituals of the mating dance; husband-hunting mothers, daughters and friends; love, romance…I could just as easily be outlining an average episode of Sex & The City. And therein lies Austin's chief appeal; she has transcended time. The day we become bored of Jane Austen is the day we become bored of human foibles, frailties and the frustration of relationships, both familial and romantic.

As such, I raced to see Becoming Jane at the weekend. And while the film is beuatifully shot and delivers a potentially devastating emotional crescendo it failed to break my heart. Rather, I emitted a faint whimper that a writer of Austen's calibre would have found most disagreeable.

Watch the trailer here.

Read Germaine Greer on Jane Austen in today's Guardian here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ready (or not)?

Mind the budget gaps as London is drowning in construction costs. But with this week's long awaited completion of Wembley and next week's NFT unveiling, you would have thought hope was in-store. But then there is always Crossrail's future to condemn. And the ever deafening chorus of Olympic discontent: from Simon Jenkins to Seb Coe and ending with Ken.

It is little question that with such double-dealing, we yearn for simpler times. Or at least a bit of reliability. So, on that note, let's roll on as expected with the 27th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Unaware that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Britain? React by commemorating history at the brilliant Slave Britain: The 21st Century Trade in Human Lives exhibit at St. Paul's Cathedral. Until 29 March, Open 8:30-4 Daily, £9.50

2) Find yourself stuck yet again in search of a new Friday night boozer? React by heading to territories new with tonight's launch of Kilburn's latest gastropub, The Westbury. Owned by the same creative brains behind super-club Fabric, it doesn't need much promotion. 34 Kilburn High Road, NW6 , 020 7625 7500, Open 7pm-2am this Fri & Sat.

3) Jealous of New York's legendary Restaurant Week? React by taking part in the Big Smoke's answer, London Restaurant Week, with price slashings on top tables. 9-17 March.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Femmes fatales

Rather than engage in the usual navel gazing that a topic such as today's celebration of International Womens Day would invite, I am going to surprise you. Today I suggest we play men at their own game: shameless self promotion.

And did you know that while women may hold up half the sky, less than 10% of film directors are female? The Birds Eye View Film Festival sets things right, however, by showcasing the stunningly different work of female filmmakers from across the globe. Kicking off with tonight's star-studded opening party, the programme includes the UK premiere of Sherrybaby (featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal) luminaries such as Tilda Swinton and Julie Christie, alongside new work from directors in developing countries. Music also plays a key role, with such films as Shut Up and Sing — a profile of controversial country gals the Dixie Chicks — and silent films that are accompanied by live musicians.

Inspired and inspiring. This game is easy.

The Birds Eye Festival

Thur 8 - Wed 14 Mar
ICA, The Mall, SW1
£6-£15, book here

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I Like Mine With a Kiss

Before we go any further today - pick up your phone, dial the Bush Theatre, buy a ticket to see 'I Like Mine With a Kiss', and thank me later. Because if you don't, you will miss a brilliantly funny play in a wonderfully mini theatre about the 'modern woman who wants it all'. And, no, it's not about Victoria Beckham.

Georgia Fitch's new play is an hilarious, thoughtful, inspired, jaded, and above all brutally honest look at what the cult of child-bearing does to women. Two best friends have one night stands at their 40th birthday party, get pregnant, and set the stage for the clash of wildly differing takes on womanhood. Both lacking stable relationships, they begin to question the meaning of their lives, as man after man disappears looking for something that they cannot or will not offer.

The acting was superb across the six person cast. And I fell in love with Louise, a half drunken slapper and half successful teacher, as played by the magnificent Michelle Butterly. Think Dorothy Parker meets Sarah Jessica Parker: Louise is a fiery character who likes a drink or twelve and covers her internal weakness with noisy bravado. Rarely does an actor/actress play a role so convincingly you are desperate to meet their real persona. So I did. After spotting one of my favourite modern playwrights, David Eldridge, in the audience I stalked him into the pub next door to find all of the cast. We celebrated their brilliance and the injustice that after next Saturday the show won't go on.

Drunk talk aside, I vowed to spread the word.

I Like Mine With a Kiss
Bush Theatre, Shepherd's Bush Green
020 7610 4224
Until 17 March

Monday, March 05, 2007

Buyers beware

Monday's antidote to Sunday:

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bricks and stones

A bête noire to London drivers, this week Old Street roundabout made headlines with word of Will Alsop's proposed new pop art tower (as pictured here).

And that was just the start. With a 30 ft high light halo announced for Oxford Circus, demolition plans for Portland House in Victoria, and an increasing likelihood of a Helter Skelter skyscraper, the real estate world is abuzz. And the celeb circuit was not excused with news that Madge's Marylebone house is on the market. But, less progressive things are happening for London's immaterial girl, Lily Allen, who claims to be homeless. Why does that make me smile?

So that was all bricks and stones, let's stick with words and the 26th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Unimpressed by the latest bone pickings of Tony Blair and David Cameron? React by celebrating this capital's better half at Capitalwoman 2007. Westminster, Storey's Gate, SW1 Sat 10am-5:15pm. Free.

2) Fed up with trolling with tourists through Borough Market for your comte? React by heading to Taste East, part of a six day celebration of all that East London has to offer. Crispin Place, E1, 12-8pm Friday, 12-5pm Saturday

3) Concerned for London's future under Green Ken? React by sailing away from this sceptred isle after heading to the RYA Dinghy Sailing Show at Alexandra Palace. For all ages and budgets. Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 10am-5pm. £12

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Comedy or Tragedy?

Poor David Cameron. It seems as though his charm with children needs some pointers from the Michael Jackson School of Persuasion. But, I doubt he is too bothered - they don't vote. And, all smirks considered, things are going swimmingly for the boy from Notting Hell.

But what about Gordo? With yesterday's vision2020 announcement from Milburn and Clarke he is no doubt feeling his ascension to the throne being challenged. If only Shakespeare had written soap operas he would have found in New Labour's power struggles abundant material for the pen that never blotted a line. He would have sussed out the coronation prospects in no time: "They that stand high have many blasts to shake them. And if they fall, they dash themselves to pieces."(Richard III, Act 1 Scene 3)

I, personally, prefer blackmail from YouTube:

David Milibland's Miliblinking Gordo gaffe