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London Town | Friday night at the theatre

In her fourth dispatch from London, Katie Burnett, a friend, actress and writer, shares her favourite way to spend a Friday night in London Town: at the theatre…

Living in London might be incredibly expensive, but saving money for the theatre is a must. Luckily, in London the theatre isn’t just world-class, it can be affordable. Sure, there are the West End theatres that can set you back as much as 200 Canadian dollars, but theatres like the National Theatre, Old Vic Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and Royal Court are rarely above 50 dollars Canadian a ticket – if that even. On a Friday night, whether you’ve been sightseeing all day or working, the best treat you can give yourself is a night out at the theatre.

luisemiller_maxbennett_felicityjones_cjperssonThe Old Vic, located on the Cut by Waterloo is a great theatre with dynamic plays. Kevin Spacey is currently finishing his run as Richard the 3rd, and Robert Sheehan of Misfits fame will take over next in the Irish play, The Playboy of the Western World. If you’re able to get to the Old Vic for a night of theatre, try and leave yourself time for a walk along the South Bank before your show, as it is the perfect place for a stroll, sight-seeing, and people watching.

There are a lot of food choices, like the always popular Wagamama or Ping Pong, but I suggest going to Cubana. It has pre-theatre dinner menus AND happy hour – a rarity in London. Their Pina Coladas are to die for….

After your play at the Old Vic, head down to the Pit bar for drinks, a chance to mingle with the cast, and usually some roaring music courtesy of a local band like Salt Water Thief (check out their performance of Adele’s “Someone Like You”). It’s a great atmosphere to relax and also extremely entertaining.

Over at the National, the views are stunning, and even if you don’t have a ticket you can go inside, wander around the bookshop (stocked with what feels like every play ever written), check out the art exhibits, treat yourself to a coffee or some wine, and sit up on the deck, overlooking the Thames and St. Paul’s. And if you do want a ticket to a show, they do Travelex offers, meaning you can get tickets for the equivalent of 20 Canadian dollars on the day!

The great secret about theatre in London is that you can wake up (albeit early), go over to the theatre where you’d like to see a show, line up, and more often than not (if you’re early!) you’ll score a ticket.

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I woke up at 7am one morning recently, dragged my weary roommate Isobel and met up with our friend Sam outside the Donmar Warehouse, where we waited until 10:30am – and each walked away with a ticket that cost about 15 Canadian dollars for that evening. The Donmar is a stunning, intimate space, and we had perfect seats for Schiller’s Luise Miller, which was a phenomenal production directed by Michael Grandage, featuring up and comer Felicity Jones as the title role.

Next up at the Donmar? Jude Law in Anna Christie. It’s sold out, but fear not – if you wake up early enough, there’s a good chance you can line up for tickets!

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And if you can get to the Royal Court, dubbed “London’s coolest theatre”, you can also enjoy the surrounding Sloane Square area and the Kings Road. It’s a hub for new playwrights, notably Lucy Prebble’s Enron, Polly Stenham’s That Face and Jezz Butterworth’s Jerusalem which went on to play in the West End and Broadway, winning various prestigious awards along the way!

[First photo found here, second photo found here, third photo found here.]

P.S. Want to keep adding to your “When I’m in London” list? Katie Burnett has more dispatches from London coming up on The Anthology! Catch up on her first dispatch from London here, her second one here and her third one here.

London Town | Saturdays in Camden Town

In her third dispatch from London, Katie Burnett, a friend, actress and writer, shares her favourite stops on a Saturday in Camden Town

Just as a note to address the recent and unfortunate riots in London – Riots aren’t cool! Know what is cool? My roommate and friend Caroline getting up early, baking cupcakes, and then distributing them to the very tired police and clean up crew in our area of Camden.

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And now back to our regular discussion on how fun and dynamic the city of London is.

I live in an area of North London called Camden Town, a great area for a relaxing but adventurous Saturday, only a twenty minute bus ride from central London and the West End. It’s not far from Regents Park and Primrose Hill, where I like to run and where I always hear celebs frequent (I didn’t believe this till I ran by Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale and their children one sunny afternoon and did a massive double take – then had to rush home and listen to “Glycerine” and “Just a Girl” on repeat!).

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Primrose Hill isn’t just good for a run, it’s a beautiful patch of grass that usually isn’t too overrun with people. It’s nice to relax, bring a book and a blanket and enjoy the view of London.

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On Saturdays, a huge market known as the Lock is open. Go hungry and with cash because you will want to eat. There’s food from every corner of the globe at appropriate prices, and the hardest part is choosing what to eat. You genuinely feel like you’ve stepped into a different world, and it’s worth taking your time to explore all it has to offer.

For shopping, it has everything you could want, from dress-up clothes for Halloween to vintage suitcases and teapots. There’s an area called the stalls which used to be horse stalls! It’s a great space to walk through.

cyberdog_shop_2009-londonThere’s Cyberdog, a store which also feels like a rave and has go-go dancers, loud electro music and dayglow makeup.

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Then there’s Proud Gallery, home to a nightclub slash restaurant slash Burlesque space slash art gallery. There’s incense, there’s jewelry, there’re hats, there’re vintage shops, there’s tea, there’s soap, there’s anything you want.

And when you’re done and in desperate need of a drink, head to the Lock Tavern Pub on Chalk Farm road.

If it’s a hot sunny day, a refreshing Fruli is nice to try, and make sure to sit up top on the patio for a nice view of the passersby below.

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When you get a sweet craving, there’s Primrose Bakery and the nearby Engineer Pub with a tiny, lush, secluded patio, full of greenery and comfy seats. Martinis are expensive but worth it!

[First two photos by Katie, third photo found here, fourth photo found here, fifth photo found here, sixth photo found here.]

P.S. Want to keep adding to your “When I’m in London” list? Katie Burnett has more dispatches from London coming up on The Anthology! Catch up on her first dispatch from London here and her second one here.

London Town | Eastern Vibes

In her second dispatch from London, Katie Burnett, a friend and beyond hilarious actress and writer living across the pond, retraces the places, films and books that make her most nostalgic

I grew up in Montreal. I was used to ice cold winters (my eyelashes freezing when my mother would send me out in a snowstorm for milk) and boiling hot, steaming summers (I would escape to summer camp in the Laurentians and jump into a cold lake to cool off). But the at-times unpleasant weather aside, the East Coast is such a vibrant place and I often miss it.

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With the film version of Kerouac’s classic On the Roadcoming out soon, I thought I’d revisit what I love about Montreal, New York, and the East Coast.
Anyone who knows Montreal knows about the Tam Tams on Mount Royal. Well, I grew up right across the park, and every Sunday morning I woke up to this. It was annoying for my parents whose bedroom faced the park directly, but I loved waking up to the familiar rhythm and beats of the Tam Tams. It’s a sound I miss. If you’re ever in Montreal, stop by!
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I’ve been reading and re-readingOn the Road and it brings back a flush of memories of the East Coast. The film is expected to come out in the next few months, directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), staring Sam Riley as Sal and Garrett Hedlund as Dean. Judging from the few stills released, it looks like they’re doing a fab job of recreating the book.

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It got me thinking about I’m Not There, a brilliant film directed by Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Mildred Pierce) where six characters embody different aspects of Bob Dylan’s life and work. Parts of it were filmed on location in Montreal, and when I saw certain images (especially Heath Ledger’s scenes with Charlotte Gainsborough), I recognized them right away as my hometown. Great for some summer viewing!

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Perfect for summer reading, Down the Highway by Howard Sounes is a great biography on Bob Dylan, almost as good as his own autobiography Bob Dylan Chronicles Volume One. When I first went to New York, I literally walked around with this book, stopping in awe when I would hit places like Cafe Wha? where Bob Dylan started out. (On a different note, if you are in New York, make sure you also stop by Levain Bakery, home of the best cookies, located on the Upper West Side.)

I have to admit, I’m obsessed with biographies, and another great one is Allen Ginsberg, Beat Poet by Barry Miles. It’s a beautiful biography that paints an incredibly picture of New York in the post WW2 era. I read it in conjunction with Ginsberg’s famous poems Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems.

Paul Simon

And what story about the East Coast would be complete without Simon and Garfunkel? I had the privilege of seeing Paul Simon perform recently at the Roundhouse in Camden. My friend and fellow North American Samantha and I got there early and managed to get in the front row!

If you can believe it, that wasn’t just a private concert by Paul Simon for me – there were hundreds of people behind me. It was intimate and phenomenal. When he played classics, it brought me right back to my youth. The last time I saw Paul Simon, I was about 10 or 11, in Montreal. I grew up listening to, and loving, his music.

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And since we’re reminiscing, here’s a shot taken by my family friend Judith Crawley when I was a baby in Montreal, with my parents. If that isn’t quintessential hipster 80’s, I don’t know what is.

[First photo found here, second and third are film stills, fourth and fifth photos by Katie.]

P.S. Want to stay on board the nostalgia train? Katie Burnett has more dispatches from London coming up on The Anthology! Catch up on her first dispatch from London here.

London Town | Sundays on Brick Lane

In the first of several dispatches from London, Katie Burnett, a friend and wildly effervescent actress and writer living across the pond, shares her recipe for a perfect Sunday in Brick Lane…

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My favourite thing to do on a Sunday in London is go to Brick Lane. I used to live right at Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road (for those who know it – I lived behind the Noodle King, the cheapest Chinese around). If you’re with friends, or alone, travel to the area for the day and indulge.

First, start at Columbia Road Flower Market. There are beautiful antique shops and vintage furniture stores along Columbia Road – in fact, in the back of one such shop is a lovely little place called Cake Hole, a tiny cake and coffee shop that has delicious victoria sponge cakes and other goodies. There’s plenty of food, but the main attraction is of course, the flower market. Take a walk down the full length of the road (it won’t take too long!) to peruse all the flowers before making your choice.

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From Columbia Road, head down to Brick Lane. The first thing you’ll encounter (aside from some great pubs, including Casa Blue on the corner) are two competing bagel shops. Both sell bagels for very cheap, and it’s worth getting a bag of at least ten bagels because once you have one, you’ll want more. They remind me of my youth growing up in Montreal, and anyone who knows Montreal bagels knows you can’t stop at one.

Continue along past the hooka shops, hairdressers, vendors selling pirated DVD’s and you’ll find vintage heaven, especially a store called Rokit. I bought a flowery dress there for 20 pounds a few years ago, and it’s still my favourite dress. (Rumours have it Victoria Beckham has dropped several loads of items off there over the years!)

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After the vintage shops you’ll hit two bars on either side of the road – on the left (east) side is 93 Feet East, where Radiohead once played a secret gig, and on the right (west) side is Vibe Bar, with a huge patio, perfect for sitting outside in the sun and enjoying a pint and some people watching.

Now if you’re hungry, you’ll soon be hitting what seems like twenty or thirty curry shops. Each one will have a worker who runs out after you, offering you a better deal than the next – fifteen percent off the bill, a free glass of wine, no wait, twenty percent off the bill and a free bottle of wine! Resist them – trust me.

Continue down, past all those restaurants, no matter how hungry you are, until you hit Whitechapel, the old stomping ground of Jack the Ripper. (If you want along the way, you can pass by the Ten Bells Pub where Jack himself picked out prostitutes to, well, you know…) Whitechapel is a thriving area now with art galleries, hipster pubs and vintage shopping.

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Now, once you’re in Whitechapel you will find what I like to call the Holy Grail of Curry – Tayyabs. Tayyabs is hands down, by far, the absolute best curry I’ve ever had, and my favourite restaurant in London. Now, before you hit Tayyabs try and remember to pick up a bottle of cold wine, or some Cobra beers because Tayyabs isn’t only the best curry in London, it’s also BYOB – oh yes – Bring Your Own Bottle.

You’ll arrive with your bottles in a bag and think, hey it’s a Sunday afternoon, I should be seated in no time, right? Well, it depends. This place is so popular you will almost always have a line up, though depending on how many in your party, you usually get seated very quickly (note – they take reservations, so always try and make one).

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I always order my favourite kind of naan bread – peshwari naan, which tastes like coconuts. The first time I had it, introduced by my friend Xina, I fell in love. Instantly. It’s the kind of taste that sticks with you forever. It’s THAT good. I also like to order the chicken tikka, which goes well with the naan.

Oh and do you like Kings of Leon? I do. I love them. And it’s their favourite restaurant. So maybe, just maybe, if you know they’re in town, take a trip down – it’s London, these things happen!

[First photo found here, second photo by Oliver Dawe, third and fourth by Katie.]

P.S. Want to keep living vicariously? Katie Burnett has more dispatches from London coming up on The Anthology!