Saturday, July 28

Spun Click for more info

Almost fifteen years after the London bombing, the questions surrounding London Muslim identity and loyalty and accountability have become almost as cliched as the answers given in response to them. On paper then, Spun seems to be stuck in the past, discussing things that most people would have been over by now. Surely it wouldn't be able to generate more than an eye roll or two? And yet, it has not been since Shades that have I enjoyed such a tight and expressive brown Muslim play.

For sure, there wasn't much new ground covered and little novelty here. The characters were plucked from the standard identikit starting selection, with their respective development following the tried and tested exclusively dual paths of spiritual identity and secular integration. As I mentioned above, a lot of this had been seen before and so those coming to Spun for novelty or a final twist would have left sorely disappointed.

But where Spun really shone was the performances themselves. Aasiya Shah's Aisha in particular was able to hold me firmly in her grasp throughout (which, considering she was probably five when the bombing happened is impressive in itself), with Humaira Iqbal portraying a solid Safa next to her. Good actors always shine in plays with a sparse number of props and sets, and the two here were bright throughout.

The third talent, in the form of the writer of the play Rabiah Hussain, was also something worth talking about. Some things jarred a little, others fell flat and in its conclusion the discussion wasn't as deep as I would have hoped fifteen years of contemplation would bring... but ultimately all those were minor flaws in a solid and clean script that didn't confuse its delivery with a need to be too clever. It was funny when it needed to be and touching when it mattered. It didn't need bells and whistles to make its point, and was better for that.

Overall then Spun was 80 minutes of straightforward, if not challenging, joy and if anything serves as a poignant recounting of what many London Muslims went through over a decade ago (and perhaps still face today). Although it doesn't really ask new questions or give new answers, it didn't need to. As a historical account of something a lot of us went through, sometimes its just as effective to tell good stories well.

Saturday, July 21

Food: Mahdi Click for more info

These days travelling any further than a 4 mile radius for food feels like a massive risk to take. That's saying less about the quality of the options and more about the number of them - we certainly are spoilt here in London, particularly in the east. So it was with trepidation that we set out to grab dinner at Mahdi, all the way in exotic Hammersmith... especially as the website almost deliberately painted it as just another Persian.

Well in this case the distance was worth it. Mahdi topped the marks both in quality of the food but also novelty - there was plenty I hadn't seen before. The staple Kubide and Juju were generous and as good as they get, while the more adventurous pilau dishes (one served with neck) was more than enough to keep us interested.

On the downside the place was busy and service suffered as a result. But at £15 per head (plus petrol costs) Mahdis easily surpassed expectations and has cemented itself as the place to go if I ever fancy eating in Hammersmith in the future.

Wednesday, July 18

Film: Skyscraper Click for more info

There comes a point when things really do become silly. This film far passes that point, taking us to a place that's so silly and laugh out loud fun you can't bring yourself to admit that it's actually quite a bad film. How can it be? I'm still chuckling to myself just thinking about it.

Of course we came to see Johnson do his thing and on that level there was just about enough to fulfill. But the junk that came with it... hoo boy. What little integrity I have forbids me to recommend this film, but please do feel free to make it your secret shame once it's released for home viewing.

Thursday, July 12

Food: Icco Click for more info

Ah, Icco. If you ever went to university in London you'll know this place well - I can't actually ever remember it not being there in some shape or form.

The premise is simple: cheap pizza of an expected quality. And while it's easy to admit that an Icco pizza isn't the best, having a bill of under £8 per head for a pizza each is a win in itself.

Things may have changed decades after Icco first started, and options are even more numerous now. But you know what you get with Icco, and more importantly what you'll have to give to get it, and that kind of reliable relationship has value in itself. Oh and that it has a mosque next door just adds to the proposition.