Alex Kasriel

Puppets, politics and pogroms

By Alex Kasriel, February 26, 2009

Over the past 10 years, puppetry has grown up and moved into the theatre mainstream. Just think of director Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre hit, His Dark Materials, or the Sesame Street-inspired West End musical, Avenue Q, where the puppets (operated by hands and rods on stage) lead very adult lives and experience very adult emotions.

Now a new puppet show aimed at adults is coming to London, one that has just three actors controlling 26 characters, and is so dark it includes a figure of Adolf Hitler.


Networking? It's just like kiddush

By Alex Kasriel, February 24, 2009

I was very flattered to be invited to one of 'Networking Queen' Carole Stone's famous Monday night salons yesterday evening.

 Carole Stone


My challah-baking experiment? Fell flat

By Alex Kasriel, February 18, 2009

Does anyone still actually make challah? Frankly, this tradition is rather time-consuming. All that proving and kneading takes a lot of work. And it is so much easier to part with around £1.60 at the local Jewish bakery for a loaf of the doughy stuff.

Shop challahs are often tastier and lighter — but they have been prepared under highly controlled conditions. The ovens are at the right temperature and the kneading machines do all the work. Meanwhile, the professional bakers have an agent in their flour to make it just the right consistency.


Real Mills & Boon heroines

By Alex Kasriel, February 18, 2009

They were ordinary English women who had never met a Jew, let alone risked their lives for anyone; but with their courage and sense of justice, Ida and Louise Cook ended up rescuing dozens of would-be victims of Hitler’s death camps.

The die-hard opera fans would travel to Germany posing as tourists willing to go anywhere to hear their favourite singers. Then they would smuggle back diamonds and furs belonging to Jews to give them financial security when they arrived on British soil.


Interview: Pete Cohen

By Alex Kasriel, February 12, 2009

According to Pete Cohen, relationships do not work and most people are dissatisfied and unhappy. On the face of it, it is a surprisingly bleak view coming from one of Britain’s most famous life coaches. Through the power of positive thinking, he has helped hundreds of television viewers lose weight and improve their self-image on his “Inchloss Island” slot on GMTV.

But actually, it seems entirely appropriate that someone doing his job should regard life as fraught with problems severe enough for people to require specialist help to deal with them.


Interview: Eve Ensler

By Alex Kasriel, February 12, 2009

Eve ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues is perhaps the unlikeliest hit in the history of theatre. Written 13 years ago, it has been performed countless times in auditoriums all over the world in front of audiences numbering in their thousands. Hollywood stars clamour to appear in it. It has had the kind of success usually reserved for big-budget musicals, and the kind of impact normally associated with groundbreaking drama.

Not bad for a play consisting of a series of monologues — both serious and humorous — intended originally to be performed by a cast of one.


Go see Milk

By Alex Kasriel, February 9, 2009

Make an effort to go and see Milk at the cinema if you have not already done so.  


I came, I saw, I haggled; and then I paid full price

By Alex Kasriel, February 5, 2009

I’m standing in Carmelli bakery in Golders Green smiling sweetly at the good-looking man behind the counter, trying to persuade him to give me some money off the price of two medium challahs.

“You mean, you don’t do anything like buy one, get one half-price. Or anything else?” I ask hopefully, knowing that buying two is actually what is expected.

“No,” he says.

“Oh, go on,” I say, uncomfortably.

“I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“What about if I get one big one for less?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t give you a discount.”


I love my big broods

By Alex Kasriel, February 3, 2009

According to the Government's 'green guru', Jonathan Porritt, having more than two children is irresponsible.

He and his chums at the Government's Sustainable Development Commission say that large families negatively impact on the environment and don't help to curb the burgeoning population. Instead he is promoting contraception and abortion.

Pah! Mr Porritt, whose two daughters I'm sure are as lovely as pie, is missing out on all the fun of a large brood.


Amy's kosher bling

By Alex Kasriel, January 29, 2009

Amy Winehouse has been in the papers again today during her never ending holiday in St Lucia. This time for wearing, well, not very much on top. I don't think I can post a link to the particular picture on this family friendly website but take it from me, she doesn't look bad for an alleged junkie/alcoholic.


Do the Hokey Cokey? So that’s what it’s all about

By Alex Kasriel, January 29, 2009

‘You put your left foot in, your left foot out; in out, in out, shake it all about.” The words may be familiar, but for many Catholics, the Hokey Cokey is reviled as an anti-Papist song written by Puritans in the 18th century which has been an expression of sectarian hatred ever since.

The song was the subject of a controversy as recently as last month when the Protestant fans of Glasgow Rangers football club were banned from singing it at Celtic Park, the home ground of their bitter Catholic rivals, Celtic.


Interview: Josh Howie

By Alex Kasriel, January 29, 2009

I f you are still beating yourself up about missing Josh Howie at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, you can stop. His hit stand-up Chosen (as in “chosen people”) won rave reviews in the national press and comedy legend Joan Rivers laughed at every gag when she saw the West End version last September. But now Howie is bringing the show back to London.

“There are so many jokes in it, it’s just silly. There must be 300 jokes!” exclaims the 32-year-old ex-public schoolboy, who has been labelled “the English Woody Allen”.


PR guru’s work-life message

By Alex Kasriel, January 22, 2009

The idea of doing the dusting while listening to newspaper podcasts in order to spend time more productively might seem like multi-tasking gone mad. But that is what self-confessed serial networker and public relations supremo Julia Hobsbawm recommends in her new book, The See Saw: 100 Ideas for Work-Life Balance.


Julia Hobsbawm: tough as odd boots

By Alex Kasriel, January 16, 2009

I met PR supremo and mother of five, Julia Hobsbawn at The Groucho Club yesterday.

The exclusive members bar was a fitting place for the interview considering the power woman is best buddies with anyone who is anyone in the media industry.


The Anglican priest who had a bris

By Alex Kasriel, January 15, 2009

The vicar of Putney has an uncomfortable feeling that his son should have had a bris.

The Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s Thought For The Day, has two girls and a boy with his Scandinavian wife, Sally. So far, so normal, except for the fact that his father is Jewish and he himself was circumcised.


A nation in one family

By Alex Kasriel, January 14, 2009

Israeli society is complicated but photographer Vardi Kahana has come up with a novel way of explaining its myriad lifestyles, groups and history.

Kahana has focused on one large extended family and photographed them over a long period of time. And the family she has chosen? Her own, of course.

Using her mother and her two sisters as a starting point, Kahana — who has two children herself — has been documenting her relatives’ lives for the past 15 years. The resulting images are now going on show in London in an exhibition called One Family.


Baby names

By Alex Kasriel, January 7, 2009

Lily, Henry and Archie were all having tea. Despite how it sounds, this jolly event didn't take place at Sunnybank Home in Golders Green: it was the recent 2nd birthday party of baby Tilly.


Limmud love

By Alex Kasriel, January 6, 2009

Returning from Limmud conference in Warwick University last week, I'm really feeling the love. Love for the new generation of youth (which doesn't count as me anymore and hasn't done so for at least 10 years, but hey). They seem more vibrant, talented and passionate than we ever were. I feel love for our community who manage every year, to stage such an inclusive and diverse event to which anyone can contribute. And I feel a renewed love of knowledge.


What not to miss over the next 12 months

By Alex Kasriel, December 30, 2008

Visual Art


How to enjoy Xmas the Jewish way

By Alex Kasriel, December 23, 2008

So the rest of the country may be eating turkey, pulling crackers and singing carols. But what are Jews doing on Christmas Day? While there are plenty who join in the fun — up to a point — others feel more comfortable doing something else. Whether it’s working, learning, volunteering or playing, here are just some Jews who have found plenty of Yuletide distraction.

The Doctor