Sober update

 

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If you’ve perused The Audley Chronicle of late, you’ll know that I recently set myself the target of going sober for a year (whilst in the UK).

There were a variety of reasons for the decision (scroll down to the next post should you wish to hear them – well, read them), and as the month has progressed – and I’ve started to experience a sober life – they seem to have become ever the more valid.

Life without alcohol has been eye opening so far. Quite literally, in fact. My eyes, no longer supporting the après booze puff/sag, have become bigger. I haven’t woken up and realised that I didn’t remove my make-up the night before. So there have been no mascara conjunctivitis episodes, either.

That’s just the eyeballs. Let’s move on, because there are many more benefits of life on the wagon that I wish to share with you. The biggest plus I’ve noticed, which I didn’t anticipate feeling, is a sense of relief.

It sounds odd, but it is such a calming feeling knowing that you won’t be hungover. Knowing that you’re not going to wake up and feel unwell in the foreseeable future. On reflection, it does seem quite odd that we voluntarily make ourselves feel ill at least once a week.

And by feeling 100% 100% of the time, you can achieve so much more. So far this January, I have:

  • Formed a partnership with one of the biggest magazine distributors within the UK
  • Been interviewed by MagCulture
  • Found – and moved into – a new office
  • Done the cover interview for issue 8 of Blogosphere
  • Sorted out a cash flow for 2016
  • Done tax return
  • Been approached by newsagent in Amsterdam to stock Blogosphere
  • Put out a job spec for an editorial assistant
  • Got 164 pages of content in for the March issue of Blogosphere (editing starts next week)
  • Attended a press event and secured new advertising contacts
  • Appointed two new editors – and created two new sections – to Blogosphere
  • Worked hard – and effectively – every day
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New office and Blogosphere HQ in Borough

Realised that the two things in life, which make time pass rapidly for me are writing and reading. Writing I’d kind of worked out before, but realising I felt that way about reading was an epiphany. And one that (as you’ll see) I’ve acted upon.

  • Gone on 5 runs
  • Attended 4 yoga sessions
  • Had 1 tennis lesson
  • Played in 1 tennis match
  • Joined a tennis league
  • Read 3 books: Room, Things We Have in Common & Talk Like Ted

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things-we-have-in-common

ted

And I have not:

  • Taken any painkillers
  • Embarrassed myself

I also haven’t been a hermit and avoided social situations. I went to a friend’s birthday party in a crypt in Brixton, have been out for numerous suppers, attended my grandfather’s 90th birthday lunch (free-flowing nice wine) and went to a – perhaps the biggest test, or what I thought would be the biggest test – Sunday lunch, which was labelled in its invitation as a ‘boozy affair’ with 54 people.

I was put onto a table with a group of people I’d never met, which though doesn’t push me hideously out of my comfort zone, is a situation in which I’d be accustomed to drinking to help the conversation flow.

It turns out that you don’t really need the booze. It’s not the alcohol that makes the difference; it’s the amount of time you’re sitting there. This is revolutionary, I know. If you sit in someone’s company for 15 minutes or so, you automatically become more comfortable and at ease. You get used to them, the situation, where you’re sitting. You really don’t need that glass of wine.

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Interviewed by MagCulture

 

So there’s the update. Oh, wait! There’s the sleep. It is SO much better. Real unadulterated sleep! No blackouts, no 3am wake-ups, no naked wanderings of my flat, no nocturnal quests for water. My sleep is now deep and undisturbed, and I wake up in the morning feeling truly rested and positive, nay excited about the day ahead.

Right, I think that is really it. Day 21. Three weeks’ sober.

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I hope you didn’t find this post too nauseating (FYI not feeling nauseous is ACE) or preachy. But this no drinking resolution has already had such a positive impact that I feel duty bound to report it!

See you for the next sober update soon.

Alice X

Jonathan Creek Returns!

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I would like to be able to say: “You can take Jonathan Creek out of his windmill but you can’t take the windmill out of Jonathan Creek.” But it appears that even our lovable sleuth can be exorcised by oestrogen into conformity…

Three years have passed since we last saw the trench-coat-wearing genius, but last night Alan Davies’s most famous character was back in BBC One’s The Clue Of The Savant’s Thumb. A better title for which, would have been, Jonathan Creek Under The Thumb.

“But he went back and solved the case?” I hear those of you who watched the show argue. Yes, yes he did, but then he went back to his Mrs, their posh flat and his job working for her father. Remember? Oh it was sad – Jonathan Creek a finance worker in the city? No. Don’t take the scatty, tattily-dressed creative mastermind we adore and dress him in a suit and plonk him behind a desk. You get a sense of loss – rather like when your contemporaries, who had all the big ideas and plans at school, conform and lose their souls in mundane vocations in the City.

Anyhow, I must not forget that he did return, albeit not permanently, to his old ways. And joining the floppy-haired QI star, was ABFAB’s Joanna Lumley and Gavin and Stacey’s Sheridan Smith – the makings of a truly glorious episode. Sadly the makings didn’t make it.

The show didn’t fuse together well, the plot felt over-cooked; too many stories whose links to each other were rather tenuous. For instance,  a boarding school main plot, that shifted to a sub-plot, a religious plot laced with LSD that didn’t come to anything, and a conspiracy tape plot that resurfaced for a weak final explanation.

We did have the murder and disappearing body plot that we all love though, and this was done well. When you can’t find a logical explanation to solve the case (like you can in every episode of Death in Paradise), you’ve been served a good mystery – and everyone loves a good mystery.

Overall then? Nope still not sold. Some change, I accept is for the better, but changing Creek into a whipped weak man is a step too far. And no windmill, well that’s just a series suicide.

Verdict **

My review of Alan Davies’s stand up can be found here: https://aliceaudley.com/2012/11/14/alan-davies-breaks-the-sabbatical-and-returns-to-the-stand-up-stage/

Review: The Icon Bar relaunches on its sixth anniversary in Leicester Square

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The Icon Balcony Bar in Leicester Square should note the old idiom: “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” To celebrate their sixth anniversary, the bar has relaunched with a brand new cocktail menu: The Iconic Dessert Cocktails – and they are revolting.

Situated directly above the Empire Cinema and boasting a large terrace (where you can spy on the stars), the Icon Balcony Bar isn’t members only, and though it looks small it fits 80 comfortably. Its interior has a Knightsbridge-esque vibe, or rather a Russian vibe. Huge chandeliers sparkle over red velvet sofas giving the room an Oligarch “this cost a lot but still looks cheap” look.

Half a dozen or so exceptionally attractive waitresses worked the room quickly and efficiently, delivering drinks to your table far faster than if you queued at the bar. First to arrive was theSalted Caramel (Fresh pineapple chunks shaken with Makers Mark Bourbon and homemade caramel, served in an ice-chilled coupette and garnished with a salted caramel rim). This wasn’t gently salted; there was enough white stuff on the rim of the glass to salt cook a sea bass. The caramel and bourbon did work well together, but the strong flavours of the duo masked any taste of pineapple.

Next came the Lemon Meringue Pie (Vodka shaken with lime and lemon curd served with a soft home-made meringue and biscuit rim). This was better; the curd was thick and tangy and worked well with the biscuit rim. The meringue hadn’t been cooked, but whipped egg white and sugar still tasted nice. In fact, lime and lemon curd, uncooked meringue and biscuit make rather a pleasant dessert – there was no need for the vodka clinging to the sides of the curd like an acidic glaze (except to make it a cocktail). Indeed, a shot of vodka would have been better, followed by the rest enjoyed simply as a dessert.

Also on the menu were Cherry Bakewell (Cherry Heering and girottines syrup shaken with bourbon and garnished with icing sugar), Blueberry Cheesecake (Vanilla Vodka and liquer, sugar, cream cheese and double cream with a crumble rim), Tiramisu (Vodka, Crème de Cacao, coffee, double cream, marscapone and sugar, dusted with sugar) and Apple Pie and Custard (Fresh apples shaken with vodka and pomme verte, layered with vanilla infused cream).

However, after watching a particularly curdled Blueberry Cheesecake being ferried past, the old menu and a Jamaican Mule (Spiced rum infused with fresh ginger and vanilla, charged with ginger beer) called. This was fantastic. A Rose Petal Martini (Rose petal vodka stirred with gin and lychee, garnished with an edible flower) was also beautifully made: dainty, light and refreshing.

Overall, though the atmosphere was good and the service highly impressive, the new cocktails let the launch down. Inventive yes, but not catered to a wide-ranging palate. I would suggest going to The Icon Balcony Bar, but stick to the old menu.

Verdict: •••

Alice Audley

Photos: Luna Ingrassia

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/29/the-icon-bar-relaunches-on-its-sixth-anniversary-in-leicester-square/

 

The Icon Balcony Bar, Leicester Square

Quentin Tarantino and Japanese futuristic force Siro-A had led me there before, but it was The Icon Balcony Bar that called me there again – to Leicester Square.

On Wednesday night, I was sent to review the bar’s 6th birthday relaunch party and its new ‘desert’ cocktail menu. Unable to attend the Novel Diner’s Sylvia Plath themed supper club the week before, Kenny (He who is tired of London) returned as my loyal +1 for this mixologists’ extravaganza.

alice and kenny

Here is what we tested:

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Salted Caramel (Fresh pineapple chunks shaken with Makers Mark Bourbon and homemade caramel, served in a ice-chilled coupette and garnished with a salted caramel rim).

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Apple Pie and Custard (Fresh apples shaken with vodka and pomme verte, layered with vanilla infused cream)

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Jamaican Mule (Spiced rum infused with fresh ginger and vanilla. Charged with ginger beer) 

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Elderflower Martini (Bison Grass Vodka stirred with elderflower and apple. Garnished with lemon oils and redcurrant)

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Rose Petal Martini (Rose petal vodka stirred with gin and lychee, garnished with an edible flower)

IMG_1907Bramble (Bombay Sapphire with fresh lemon and crème de mure, churned over crushed ice)

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Mojito (White Rum, Mint, Lime & Sugar)

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Raspberry Mule (Crushed raspberries with vodka and fresh lime. Charged with ginger beer)

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Earl Grey Fizz (Champagne infused with Earl Grey Tea)

Needless to say, we had a whale of a time! But stick to the original menu…we weren’t convinced by the desert cocktails.

Review to follow.

Sausage Time

On Tuesday night I went to the Hammersmith Apollo to review Harry Hill’s new stand-up Sausage Time.

I took my friend Annabel Jewers as a +1, who thought (as did I) that we would just be watching the show. Collecting our press tickets, we were also handed after party wristbands…We weren’t just watching the show, we were going to be meeting the voice of You’ve been Framed himself.

Sadly this was after we had endured his two-hour show. Yes, endured. It was not good. And meeting a comedian who has failed to make you laugh, is rather less exciting than meeting one who had fulfilled their job prescription. Here is my review:

Sausage Time at the Hammersmith Apollo

Harry Hill is the equivalent of flares to fashion: not yet ready for a comeback. This, however, is exactly what the voice of You’ve been Framed has done; he’s come back with new stand-up show Sausage Time.

Hill is best known for his ITV show Harry Hill’s TV Burp, but after 11 years the award-winning series was cancelled in 2012 to allow “the comic to pursue other projects.” Judging the audience’s reception of last night’s performance, Hill should have kept hold of that contract.

Sausage Time (Hill’s first stand-up show since 2005) is ill-conceived, tatty and most disastrously, not laugh out loud funny. The show doesn’t look prepared; it’s like Hill has decided on a few jokes, jotted them down on a piece of paper and had the cockiness to just wing it. Jokes were repeated, pauses were, at times, too lengthy and interactions with members of the front row were strained. At one point – so desperate for laughs – Hill chucked a bucket of water over his head. This is stand-up, not ChuckleVision.

High points of the show (there weren’t many) included a speedy monologue on the human constitution and a witty metaphor on immigration: “At least Parrots bothered to learn the language.” Sadly these peaks of humour were short-lived and the audience were soon drawn back into Hill’s unfunny fray.

Harry Hill is a household name and Hill knows it. The comedian has used his TV reputation to make a quick bit of cash on tour, without caring if people find him funny or not, after all at £33.50 a ticket he’s had the last laugh. Though on top of some serious platform shoes, Hill is not on top of his game, and Sausage Time is not worth forking out for.

Verdict: *    http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/27/comedy-review-harry-hill-sausage-time/

Upstairs in the private party, he wandered around with a flat cap on. We got his attention and I asked him:

“What made you decide to give up Medicine and pursue comedy?”

He replied: “Because I wanted to.”

Charming! So we got a photo each and left.

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Annie and Harry

alice and harryAlice and Harry

Theatre Review: Steptoe and Son at the Lyric Hammersmith

British sitcom Steptoe and Son first hit television screens on 4th January 1962. Following the tumultuous relationship between a father and son in the scrap-selling business, the BBC One show ran for eight seasons, produced 57 episodes and didn’t finish until 1974. Spin-offs were made in Sweden, the Netherlands and the US, and two films were released in the UK in ’72 and ’73. In 2004, Steptoe and Son was voted 15th in Britain’s Best Sitcom awards.

Steptoe-and-SonThis year, “dirty old man” Albert and son Harold have returned, but this time to the stage. The Kneehigh and West Yorkshire Playhouse have brought the iconic series back home to the Lyric Hammersmith in West London.

Laughs are rife from the start. Mike Shepherd (Albert) and Dean Nolan (Harold) have chemistry that rings true of a father-son relationship. From small gestures to gait, from physical interaction and hilarious dance moves to voice, the pair is perfectly in tune throughout the performance. Their quick fire exchanges in the stichomythia scenes were performed superbly and it really did seem like they had been together (in the scrap yard) forever.

The scrap yard was depicted by a large cart centre stage, which doubled as their home. The set was crowded: a model horse stage right, a record box stage left, a large orb upstage, bits of scrap downstage, this disorder worked well and conveyed both the chaotic nature of their work and their relationship.

Unfortunately, the plot was very weak. Director Emma Rice had the pair bumble along irritating each other for the majority of the performance, occasionally interspersed with more tender scenes that suggested they cared about each other – a message that wasn’t strong enough to warrant a two-hour performance and felt, by the second half, exceedingly drawn out.

Rice also added a female character (Kirsty Woodward) who, in addition to playing numerous bland roles that never successfully meshed with Albert and Harold, acted as a physical representation of time. Through her dramatic costume changes, including a playboy bunny and a 60s hippy, the audience could gauge the shift of years and eras.

Despite its lack of backbone, Steptoe and Son was entertaining. Shepherd and Nolan both gave worthy performances, recreating the slap-stick comedy of their 60s predecessors. Woodward didn’t have the opportunity to shine, which considering her previous performances was a shame. A wasted opportunity – it was good, but with a stronger script it could have been great.

Verdict: 

Alice Audley

Steptoe and Son is on at the Lyric Hammersmith until 6th April 2013. For further information or to book tickets, click here

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/03/21/theatre-review-steptoe-and-son-at-lyric-hammersmith/

Easter ‘Creme Egg’ Brownie

I saw photos of these sickly looking creatures peppering Facebook and thought they looked revolting. Just when Slutty Brownies had taken a backseat, now a new equally over-sugared recipe has gone viral…and with social media on tap every second of the day, well you just can’t escape.

I left London and returned to the country to flee from this urban trend. Phew! I’d finally escaped the rumours, the suggestions, the ‘oh have you tried’s? I thought as I pushed open the back door and was greeted by my exceptionally hyper-active puppy.

Then I walked into the kitchen and saw it. There on the table, glistening in gluten, was…surely not. I walked further towards it. There was no doubt…it was, my younger sister had made a:

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CADBURY’S CREME EGG BROWNIE

I took a closer look:

IMG_1854I mean it’s just too much. A brownie is sweet enough by itself, why go lathering on creme eggs? In the ‘how do you eat yours?’ question, no-one answered ‘on top of a brownie,’ did they?

My sister had gone one step further and drenched the mongrel sweet in earplugs, which on closer inspection turned out to be mini-marshmallows. Could it get any worse?

I expressed my revolt and chided her for following such a tacky trend. She fought back, “you can’t knock it until you’ve tried it.”

There was logic to this and unwillingly I succumbed to her demands. I tried it. And it was absolutely, 100 %, utterly…delicious.

“Ha, you like it!” she said smugly.

My face said it all, there was no point in denying it, I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I demanded the recipe…

Creme Egg Brownies

Ingredients

350g plain chocolate, broken into pieces (Bournville)

250g unsalted butter

50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

3 medium eggs, beaten

250g soft brown sugar

4 Cadbury’s Creme Eggs

Method

1) Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Butter a baking tin 29cm x 18.5com x 5cm

2) Melt chocolate with butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once melted remove from pan and allow to cool slightly.

3) Sift flour and baking powder onto a plate.

4) Whisk eggs until thick and creamy, then gradually whisk in the sugar, using an electric hand whisk. The mixture will become really thick and mousse like. Gradually fold in the slightly cooled chocolate, alternating with the flour.

5) Spoon mixture into the tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is cracked and the centre is just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin.

6) Cut the 4 Creme Eggs in half and push into the soft surface.

7) Grate some chocolate over the top to garnish.

And you have the perfect Easter treat!

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Happy Easter!

 

Theatre/Dance Review: Greed

After the success of last year’s Sensual Africa, choreographer Bawren Tavaziva has returned to London with his new show Greed. With foundations rooted in the seven deadly sins, Greed claims to deal with the “complexities of money, power and religion and the subtle and not so subtle differences between African and Western cultures”. Perhaps these complexities are thorny to the point of incomprehensibility – whatever the reason, they didn’t translate clearly in the performance.

Greed at The Place

Even with Afro-Western comparisons removed from the equation, deciphering the seven deadly sins was challenging enough. In just over one hour the eight dancers – dressed in white Aztec-print lycra – performed a cyclical, tribal, modern, voodoo-infused routine in which, out of pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth, only lust was performed with any clarity.

And what a scene this was: slinking onstage, grabbing each other bestially and thrusting aggressively, the dancers masterfully depicted pre and post-coital states. A fusion of human and animal, the dancers paraded their insatiable sexual appetites to the backdrop of Tavaziva’s porno-esque soundtrack, in which mewing females, rasping throaty males, wails and heavy-breathing intermingled with the bellows of elephants and the deep grunts of a leopard. The scene was reminiscent of Laurie Lee’s beautifully crafted description in Cider with Rosie of “the orgasmic outbursts of tethered beasts.”

Alas, after Petros Treklis (the only male performer) lifted the final dancer by her nether regions, the scene was over and we were drawn back into the indistinguishable blur of convolution. Perhaps the only other sin apparent was sloth – manifested in the yawns of the audience. This languor, however, could have been part of Tavazina’s plan: he wanted us to feel bored, to feel sloth, and thus created a soporific soundtrack. Or, the audience might just have been bored.

Though the dancing was impressive and energetic it was also confusing and repetitive. This repetition sadly caused a lack of audience concentration, rendering the production’s message impenetrable and undermining its redemptive section. Sneak in for the lust scene, or give it a miss.

Verdict: ••

Alice Audley

Theatre review: Fuerzabruta at Roundhouse

Bizarre, confusing, unnerving yet exciting, Diqui James’ show Fuerzabruta is an accessible modern-day equivalent to visiting Bedlam. Rather than paying to go to mental asylums to watch crazed individuals, Londoners can now go to Chalk Farm’s Roundhouse instead.

Fuerzabruta is an 80-minute show which has no plot, and performers that have lost the plot – a rare combination of the utterly plot-less.  The scenes that unfold amidst the spectacle were certainly difficult to get your head around.

Wailing females with tortured faces chasing each other like mad sirens were juxtaposed with a treadmill and a running man, who despite numerous gunshot wounds and deaths, was consistently resurrected. This Mo Farrah/Jesus hybrid was then followed by a George Washington DJ who smiled creepily and bounced up and down erratically for a while. There was no underlying message or deeper meaning, and the shifts were random, abstract and at times clunky, especially when the audience had to be ushered around the pit.

However, though nonsensical, it is not to say that Fuerzabruta isn’t enjoyable. Just as our predecessors enjoyed watching the inhabitants of Bedlam, the audience equally enjoyed watching the actors in Roundhouse. There is something exciting about watching humans shun social norms and act out; we do secretly enjoy the occasional drunken person on the Underground that screams incoherently. It is ingrained in human nature that we enjoy people who make a spectacle of themselves. People are interested in people.

Reiterating this interest in our fellow man was the best scene of the night – the human aquarium.  Four semi-clothed women splashed around on a translucent board which was lowered above the audience’s heads. Curving their bodies, diving and then looking through the water with their eyes open like possessed nymphs, the women captivated the audience. The board lowered further and a few stray hands reached up to touch them, just as one taps on a fish tank. They were there for our entertainment and we were entitled to ogle them.

Fuerzabruta is an odd one; it may be plot-less but it is also original, innovative and thoroughly entertaining. Unlike anything in the present theatrical market, the performance is well worth a visit if you don’t mind watching something purely for watching’s sake. Prepare yourself for a completely pointless, wacky and alternative cocktail of music, dance and special effects.

Verdict: ••••

Alice Audley

Theatre Review: Siro-A at the Leicester Square Theatre

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(Photo: Patrick Coyle)

London’s Leicester Square Theatre has been invaded by a futuristic force; a psychedelic, kaleidoscopic, technodelic force. London’s Leicester Square Theatre has been invaded by Siro-A.

Stylistically likened to The Blue Man Group, Japan’s Siro-A is an award-winning six man dance/mime team who seek to entertain a new generation – a multi-generational audience; and they succeeded. Fusing electric visuals with pumping beats, crafty choreography and clever comedy, Siro-A proved a sensual feast.

The distinction between human and modern interaction is made before the performance has even started. One of the team meanders through the front rows shaking hands with the audience, before retreating onto the stage and then filming the same people. Not only does this break the fourth wall and involve you in the action, but it also marks the change in how we socialise: gone are the days of human contact, in are the days of socialising behind the veil of technology.

This technological revolution is the driving force behind Siro-A’sperformance. The set is simple, stark and white, and the actors all have luminous white-painted faces. The scene can only be brought alive through technology – and technology they use. The audience is transported into a myriad of weird and wonderful sets, from nightclubs, to computer games, to Japan (and one of the performer’s homes). You never know where they are going to thrust you next, or how long they will let you stay there.

In just under an hour you are sucked into a technophile’s dreamland where reality, fantasy and endless possibility magically collide. Harvesting every emotion evoked by Siro-A’s performance would be nigh on impossible (unless of course there was a technology invented to record every second of feeling). The brain is overwhelmed with colour, movement, change and sound; though you don’t know what is happening and you can’t follow a plot, you do know that you are enjoying yourself.

Perfectly timed (any longer and the brain may just melt) and perfectly executed, with a sharp sense of humour, Siro-A is a futuristic phenomenon that is rightfully carving a following in the theatrical market. Get down to Leicester Square!

Verdict: ••••

http://www.theupcoming.co.uk/2013/02/22/theatre-review-siro-a-at-the-leicester-square-theatre/siro-a_all_standing2_medium/