Exhibition review: North South Divine at WW Gallery

Nestled in the heart of the diamond district, to find the WW Gallery you have to be seeking it; the building is narrow, unassuming and could easily be missed. But to miss it would be ill-advised, for within this hidden gem in Hatton Garden is a fantastic collection of contemporary art – the North South Divine exhibition.

Kate Davis - The Wind Rises

Kate Davis – The Wind Rises

Featuring the work of eight artists, the display, which will tour upcountry to Middlesbrough, supposedly plays on “the age-old geographical and traditional social tensions between both ends of the country”. Anchored on the Southern side of the coin and surrounded by artworks that could be found anywhere in the country, this seemed far-fetched. Tensions were explored, but these were rooted in feminism rather than geography.

Boa Swindler, who has three works on display, uses inverted feminism in her pieces to commentate on the shift (post-recession) of many modern-day women, who now desire nothing more than to be 50s housewives – to serve their husbands, to bake cupcakes and to have babies. Swindler accompanies her artwork with voice-overs, which are delivered in a steady, clear and serious tone. This isn’t the voice of sense, but of the automaton woman, and the sincerity with which it calmly asserts: “Day after day there are girls in the office, men will be men. Don’t send him off to work with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again…”, while you look at a pair of tasselled sugar and salt shakers, is chilling.

Kate Davis’s The Wind Rises is equally provocative. A steel table, about 7ft high, with four lemons as bases for the four legs, and a portfolio of drawings and texts perched on top (which, as a woman, you can’t reach or entirely see) – the piece is a physical representation of the glass ceiling: “The unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements.” Davis’ lemons show the sour foundations for women: that from the off they are destined for failure, and the work that they want to grasp will forever be out of their reach.

North South Divine may not deliver on geographical tensions, but it certainly raises long-standing questions over the sexes and the female role, and is well worth a visit.

Verdict: ••••   

Alice Audley



Theatre review: The Low Road at the Royal Court Theatre

After seven fruitful years at Sloane Square’s Royal Court Theatre, Dominic Cooke is relinquishing his position as artistic director, though not before one final collaboration with American playwright Bruce Norris. The duo who brought us The Pain and the Itch and the critically acclaimed Clybourne Park team up again for The Low Road.

Set in 18th Century Massachusetts,The Low Road is a “fable of free-market economics and cut-throat capitalism”. Following the life of amoral Jim Trumpett, who may or may not be the son of George Washington, the play is powered by money, greed and racism. Trumpett, played by Johnny Flynn, desires nothing more than to be stinking rich and has no issue with eliminating all who get his way. Whether this is achieved by stealing from them, buying them or actually murdering them is of little concern to him.

Flynn plays the role with just the right amount of fake boyish charm and callousness. He is gracious to those who can help on his way, and vile once they have served their purpose. The brilliant portrayal of his character’s immorality is best bared in his scenes with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who plays Trumpett’s well-spoken slave John Blanke. Flynn perfectly captures Trumpett’s frustration as he repeatedly fails to control Blanke, in a series of highly amusing verbal battles.

Humour is a real strong point of the performance and holds it together when it verges on heavy-going. The plot is thick; there are location shifts, character shifts and time shifts -including one massive leap into a 21st Century board-room meeting. Indeed, if it weren’t for the Brechtian use of banners and signs telling you whereabouts in the story you were, and the brilliant dry-witted narrator, Adam Smith (played by Bill Paterson), then you would be at risk of literally losing the plot.

With a 20-strong cast playing, between them, 51 characters, The Low Road is a massive undertaking, which could only succeed under the experienced direction of Dominic Cooke. The play, which is reminiscent of Lucy Prebble’s Enron, is cleverly scripted, entertaining and thought-provoking. The realisation that the one character you explicitly don’t trust is probably the only character that is telling the truth is extremely unsettling. The Low Road is a long road, but it is worth the journey.

Verdict: ••••

Alice Audley


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


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



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:

salted caramel

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).


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


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


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


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)


Mojito (White Rum, Mint, Lime & Sugar)


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


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.

annie and harry

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.


Alice Audley

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


Designs of the Year 2013

Do you remember when you were interested in everything? When you wanted to know how everything worked? The Shad Thames Design Museum has brought this inherent curiosity back to life with Designs of the Year 2013. The competition judges the year’s best designs from around the world across seven categories: architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, and product and transport.

Designs Of The Year 2013 ExhibitionFrom a non-stick ketchup bottle, to the costumes of Anna Karenina, to self-adjustable children’s glasses, to a South Korean chainless bicycle, toKapow!, a revolutionary text which questions the way in which we read, the entries are as diverse as they are innovative.

The creators are equally varied and range from the well-known to the début. Curator Pete Collard said that the competition displayed “not only accomplished designers such as Thomas Heatherwick and Zaha Hadid, but also the unknown prototypes that could change the way we live.” One such prototype is LiquiGlide.

Designed by Kripa Varanasi and Dave Smith, LiquiGlide is an edible material that looks set to make condiment history. It adds a microscopic slippery coating to the inside of glass bottles – no more wacking the bottom of the ketchup bottle to get the last of the sauce. Plans are also being made to adapt the material to aircraft wings to prevent ice forming during flight.

The Centre for Vision in the Developing World is also hoping to change the way we live. Determined to restore the gift of sight to children with no access to opticians, the centre has developed Child Vision Glasses: self-adjustable glasses that allow the wearer to tweak the lenses until they focus clearly.

Described as the “Oscars of the design world”, the winners of the competition, announced on 17th April, will gain global recognition and could see their products sold on an international scale. As an exhibition, Designs of the Year 2013 is inspiring, a testament to the power of human ingenuity. It is easy to recommend.




Supper Club Review: The Novel Diner does The Bell Jar

Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was published in 1963; a month later the poet committed suicide. Though half a century has passed, last night, in the newly renovated Bush Theatre, both Plath and her only novel were resurrected. Ted Hughes’ wife and her book were brought to life by supper club sensation, The Novel Diner.

Mina Holland, Co-Founder of The Novel Diner.

Mina Holland, Co-Founder of The Novel Diner.

Set up by Claire Coutinho and Mina Holland, The Novel Diner is a pop-up restaurant which brings works of fiction to life. You are literally nourished by novels. Past menus have featured Turkey Bewitched to a Dark Gold for The Great Gatsby,Whipple Scrumptious Fudge Mallow Delight for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and, very impressively, Sea Urchin Cevichefor American Pyscho.

Last night’s voyage took us into both the era and the culinary world of Plath’s protagonist Esther Greenwood. Entering the theatre, you forgot that you were an arm’s reach from a bustling pub bar. As soon as you stepped through the threshold and were handed a chicken, caviar and lemon thyme canapé and a Gin & Elderflower Collins, there was no doubt that you were in 1953.

Beautifully dressed women, working 50s glamour to perfection, surrounded delicately laid tables, peppered, alongside candles and flowers, with Esther’s worrisome ripened figs: “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose.  I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

This was beautifully quoted by The Novel Diner’s very own Esther Greenwood, Bess Roche, after a deliciously cool starter of Fresh Crab and Avocado Pear Salad dressed with Poet’s Leaves.

Soft, self-conscious and questioning, Roche captured the internal angst of Plath’s heroine wonderfully. She absorbed diners with her monologues, effortlessly keeping them in the 1953 time warp.

Roche was not the only guest speaker: after the diners had finished a hearty portion of Grandma’s Meat Loaf with Pancetta, Fondant Potatoes, Sautéed French Beans and Butter Beans in White Wine (served in individual Le Creuset pots), Professor Richard Brown took to the floor and delivered a fascinating mini lecture on Plath, The Bell Jar and – somewhat surprisingly – Bob Dylan. Brown’s enthusiasm was infectious and his pithy dialogue both informative and entertaining.

Pudding was A Ladies’ Day dessert dish of Brandy Ice Cream, Meringue & Fig Molasses. The rich brandy fused delightfully with the sweet meringue and both were topped off fantastically by the fig molasses. It was a punchy pudding, and as with the rest of the evening, The Novel Diner team executed it perfectly.

A supper club where you eat, drink, dress up, read and learn, The Novel Diner has found a niche in an overcrowded market, and it delivers time and time again.

Verdict: •••••

butterbeansSpooning some butter beans

meatloafGrandma’s Meat loaf

salad fingersEating salad with my fingers


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

Restaurant review: Lime&Tonic presents Italian Passion at Debut Contemporary

A new season of supper clubs has dawned, where business rather than food is the focal point. The era of the LinkedIn dinner party has arrived and Bayswater’s Debut Contemporary is leading the field.

At the helm of this gallery-with-a-difference are Samir Ceric and Zoe Knight, whose vision of “discovering, mentoring and supporting talent in contemporary art” has helped dozens of aspiring artists turn their practice into a viable trade over the past two years. Supper clubs are just one of the ways in which Ceric and Knight expose their artists to potential buyers, collectors and industry officials.

On Wednesday night the Debut team combined forces with the Italian Supper Club, in partnership with Lime&Tonic, and treated their guests to a four-course tasting menu. On arrival we were given flutes of a cranberry cocktail and taken on a mini tour around the gallery by the artists, who explained their inspirations and artistic backgrounds. After mingling, we were led downstairs to a long white table adorned with beautiful bouquets of roses and tulips. A seating plan separated duos and after a quick brief from the chef about the menu and the Macedonian wines, the meal commenced.

Salmon sashimi with pickled vegetables arrived with a glass of white wine. The latter was great, full-bodied and not too sweet, and it helped wash away the taste of the courgette and cream roll. One of the two slices of salmon was very good, tender and fresh, but the other was sinewy and tough. We were also given a bread roll which was hard, cold and served without butter.

Things got better. The next course – castelbelbo ravioli with truffles – was delightful. The only complaint would be that there wasn’t enough of it, and really that’s a compliment.

Next was monkfish served with fennel purée, which was done very well, and even appealed to the fennel haters at the event. The blend of potato mellowed the potent vegetable and it was well suited to the white fish. Another glass of the same white wine worked well here too, but as an addition rather than as a mouthwash.

Dessert was a coffee panna cotta served with liquorice shavings and biscotti. The panna cotta was slightly too gelatinous in texture, but very tasty, and the biscotti were perfect – warm, crunchy and light.

Though a mixed bag, overall the food wasn’t good enough to warrant the £75-a-head charge, but then the focus of the night wasn’t really about the food, it was about art and business, and that was a raging success. Conversations that started over salmon with strangers were conversations with friends by dessert. Business cards were swapped and invitations extended.

Taking food out of the equation, it was business and art that successfully fused at Debut Contemporary’s supper club and created an environment far more personal and vibrant than any boardroom. A thoroughly entertaining and different approach to business, I would recommend attending another of Debut’s supper clubs, but as a lover of art, not of food.

Alice Audley

Food: 12/20
Drinks: 15/20
Service: 14/20
Italian Passion at Debut Contemporary: 41/60