By the Kilo: A Vintage Sale in East London

Back to Bethnal Green I went today, when I revisited the York Hall location, which is where the vintage fair I posted about previously, was held. This Sunday’s sale, put on by Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair company, was a great followup event to the last, with the premise this time being that you purchase by the kilo, rather than individual items. At £15 pounds a kilo, that’s an amazing deal. Some of the items on their own should cost that much, so it’s incredibly refreshing to be able to pair a few objects together for the same price!
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I arrived right as the early bird time opened. There were quite a few people there, obviously very excited to fill their purple bags with racks and racks of clothing. I was happy to see that this sale had all sizes of clothing. Sometimes, as a plus size woman interested in fashion, it’s a gamble to go shopping for vintage clothes, as it’s usually hard to find things that fit. But I was definitely not disappointed by the large selection of garments filling the room. It was lovely to see people so happy to find an item, whether it be jewelry or a clothing piece, that made them light up upon pulling it off the rack or picking it up off the table and trying it on.
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After an hour of searching, I ended up only like two items enough to take them home with me. I struggled with some other choices, but ultimately decided on two pieces I know I’d end up wearing a lot. A denim tank, and a lovely green cardigan, to which I changed into in the bathroom at the hall to take advantage of the full-length mirror (which I still need to get one for my own room). My bag only ended up weighing half of a kilo, so I could’ve gotten more, but am very pleased with the two items I got, since I’ll get a lot of use out of them.
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To find out when the next event is, follow the Vintage Clothing Kilo Sale Facebook page. They’re held all over the UK, so if you’re not in London, you don’t have to miss out at all.

Disclosure: I received free entry and a complimentary kilo of clothing for this post, but was intending to attend despite these gifts and loved every minute of the event.

West End Review: Shakespeare in Love

Shall I compare this play to its movie equivalent? Thou art not my favorite adaptation, as much as it could have been. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I went to see the stage version of one of my favorite films, but I’m not sure if I expected this. With any cross-platform adaptations, there is a lot of change to make it more suitable for the medium, but transferring this Tom Stoppard screenplay onto the stage should’ve been easy (with Stoppard being first and foremost a playwright more often than a screenwriter). I found the entire play to be very rushed, as if they were trying to fit the entire plot of the film into the span of 2 and a half hours, which usually works as a good length for a play, but with a plot that is slightly complicated like Shakespeare in Love’s is, I wish the information had come at the audience a bit slower. Let’s just say that as someone who knows the film very well, I was even confused at what was happening.

Photo by Johan Persson

Now, I shall get to what I did enjoy about this piece of theatre. The stage design incorporated the Shakespearean feel of the late 1500s and early 1600s theatres we don’t conform to any longer. Using the stage as sort of an allusion to the globe, the multiple levels made out of wooden pathways, definitely gave feel to the era the play is set in. And with this play, “All the world’s a stage,” truly applies, because the way it was set up makes it easily transferable from a story space to a theatre space when needed in the plot. The costumes were period-appropriate and beautiful. The acting was also very top notch, especially from Tom Bateman, who played the titular character. The night I went, Lucy Briggs-Owen, who played Viola, had very obviously taken ill with her voice, which lead to a very scratchy, strained performance, but she still played the part with conviction.

Photo by Johan Persson

Some of the changes made to the plot were things I did enjoy. In the stage version, Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are actually very close friends, unlike in the movie, which gave them a deeper relationship I enjoyed watching. They made good use of the repetitive line, “and a bit with a dog,” which made it much funnier later, when there actually was an entertaining bit with a dog. Some scenes were switched around, giving a bigger build up to when Viola reveals she’s been masquerading as Thomas Kent to be able to act on stage. Overall, it was quite a fun play, and I was happy I got to see it, and a different way of putting forth the story than I was used to.

Prague: A Fairytale City Full of Comfort Food

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My only regret from this past weekend was that I did not get nearly enough time in Prague. It’s truly a travesty that my time there was so limited, which means the positive outcome of that is now I know I want to come back and spend many more days here, and bask in this enchanted city. Prague (or Praha) has two of my favorite things; very tasty, filling, comfort food and buildings that look like a European fairytale. I was happy to arrive and at least get a few hours of sunlight.
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I feel like I don’t need to explain Prague too much, just because I didn’t get to spend enough time there to get the full picture on the place, but Levi and I just leisurely walked around the city, ate some great, tasty food, walked across the Charles Bridge, felt very happy to be in such a gorgeous place, and watched the sunset. It really was a perfect day. Our hotel room was also very nice and comfy, included a large buffet breakfast, and featured the most amazing shower I’ve ever been in (a place to sit and let jets of water massage your back). I was actually quite sad to leave the next morning, but I’m at least comforted to know that I will definitely be coming back soon.
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West End Review: The Play That Goes Wrong

For my playwriting class this semester, we’re meant to write a 60-90 minute play as our final project. As I am a theatre person with a strong passion for the play-within-a-play format (I’ve been in two of these type of shows), I decided that I would tackle this for my own writing. My professor suggested two plays for me to see before I started. One being “Shakespeare in Love” (which I will review soon), and “The Play That Goes Wrong.” Having a full, free day last Thursday, I decided to go see both in one day and fill my 24-hours with as much theatre as possible. “Noises Off” was my favorite play-within-a-play I had seen, up until seeing this show. “The Play That Goes Wrong” was everything I needed from a outing to the theatre. Coming from a theatre background, having played every part, from actress on stage, to backstage crew, to spotlight operator, to front-of-house staff, I’ve been fully engrossed in any and everything that can go wrong in a performance. It was amazing to be able to sit back as an audience member and see everything go wrong in such a perfectly, practiced way. Without giving too much away, you can assume from the title of the show that what you’ll be seeing will be an absolute disaster. Every performer has the “actors nightmare” before, during and after a show, and with this play, you get to see everything you dream about happening in two hours, and it’s surprisingly refreshing. When it’s not happening to you, and rather someone else, it’s hilarious! I was laughing, out loud, the entire show. It’s hard for me to actually laugh out loud for anything. Yes, I may chuckle to myself when I find something funny, but it takes a lot for me to open my mouth and exude a verbal noise of enjoyment, and with each moment in this performance, I was roaring. When you’re performing a play where you’re supposed to be a “bad actor,” you actually have to be a very good actor to be able to pull it off. The cast of this show are obviously very good actors, who can pull off “bad” very convincingly, without going overboard. It takes perfect comic timing to do what they do, so I can tell they’re all very trained in the art of farce to have pulled this off so well. The lines alone must’ve taken a lot of rehearsal to perfect, because with some of the gags, including mispronunciation and lines being out of order, it takes a lot of skill to have done that, and I was very impressed. And of course, the set (and the invisible people backstage) were the true stars of the show. For everything to “go wrong,” there has to be everything backstage going right. From objects falling off the wall, to items being misplaced and set pieces breaking, this well-rehearsed cast must’ve had many run throughs with the set and crew to make sure the timing was down perfectly. In fact, if something did go wrong, it would be impossible to tell, since everything is going wrong anyways. And that’s what I really loved about this show is that because everything goes wrong the entire time, you’re never bored wondering if something exciting is going to happen, because you don’t have to wait a moment for it to. This show gave me a lot of inspiration for my own work, and I will be drawing a lot from it (not plagiarizing of course), but using the themes and possibly some of the things that go wrong, to give my piece some life. “The Play That Goes Wrong” is playing at the Duchess Theatre and its run just got extended, so there’s plenty of time to see it, which is great for me, because I really want to go again. I knew I was in love with it before it even started, because the pre-show activity from the actors included trying to fix a door that just won’t shut properly, and that hit a soft spot in my heart, after using a door much like it in my acting classes. It never stayed shut or sometimes didn’t even open properly, causing a lot of stress in class scene showings, which is one of those many things that can go wrong in the theatre.

Low Carb Dieting and Travel

Since the summer of 2012, I’ve been doing a low carb diet on and off. It’s the only diet that’s actually ever worked for me. My body is weird when it comes to losing weight, and can’t do it in a regular way (working out and eating healthy). I tried for years to do the normal method with no success, and finally found that the low carb lifestyle does wonders for me. Obviously, there’s many problems with it. For those who don’t know what it entails, you can read more about it here, but a basic overview of a keto or low carb diet is that you must keep your carb consumption to under 50 grams a day to allow your body to go into a state of ketosis, which is a fat burning mode.

This makes life a bit hard at times. Almost all the good food in the world is full of carbs. A single piece of bread can sometimes have over 50 grams of carbs in it, meaning you basically can’t have anything with wheat in it. The basic food groups you can eat are vegetables, cheese, eggs, meat and any low carb products you can get your hands on. Creating a meal plan can be easy, but get’s repetitive due to the lack of food choices. When I’m strictly on it (like right now), my day consists of eggs with cheese and meat in the morning, some cheese and veggies for lunch, an Atkins bar as a snack, and some kind of meat and veggies for dinner. It requires a lot of cooking and pre-planning out meals.

Which leads me to the topic of this post; Low carb dieting and travel. It is almost an impossible task. It’s tough to hop around or be out all day sightseeing when you are on a keto diet, because the food options are limited for someone who can’t eat carbs. Most of the food you can buy on-the-go, unfortunately is full of carbs. If you’re lucky, you can find a grocery store, but then you still have to be picky about what you buy. Many restaurants are not big fans of altering your order to make sure it’s low carb, especially in countries outside of America. America knows most of their citizens are on some kind of diet, which is why many menus now have low calorie or low carb options, but outside of the US, most places don’t care to cater to your weird demands about the food.

So how do you do a low carb diet while traveling? It’s all about pre-planning. It kind of sucks to have to worry about food when you’re trying to enjoy yourself on the road, but if you’re stuck to any food restrictions, whatever your diet consists of, you have to plan in advance so you’re not going off with nothing. If you’re staying in a hostel or Airbnb location with a kitchen, you can cook your own breakfast in the morning. Most breakfast or brunch places with have low carb options like eggs and meat, so that shouldn’t be hard to find. Lunch, dinner and snack time gets a bit harder. Before you leave, purchase some Atkins bars or other low carb snacks you like, and then pack them in your bag. It’ll be almost impossible to find these items in a local grocery store in a foreign country, especially when you don’t speak the language. If you are starving and find a store, buying a package of meat and cheese usually does the trick for me. Most places also have pre-packaged salads now too, which are good for on-the-go. For dinner, if you do want to splurge for a nice meal, finding a steak option is usually the best way to go, because often it will come with vegetables, which are safe items.

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A salad and a cup of tea or coffee are good on-the-go items for low carb travelers.

Do I wish it was easier to travel and diet at the same time? Yes, obviously. I wish I didn’t have to worry about my weight like so many people do, but I was put into the body I ended up in, and have to deal with that accordingly. For me, low carb is the only thing that works with my system, which means I’ll always have a harder time than those who can eat whatever they like and then work out for a bit to negate the calories. I’ll always struggle, and it’s not ideal, but I can cope. I know food is one of the great delicacies of traveling, and I hate to punish myself while abroad and not eat the wonderful and tasty foods of a new country, but for now, I figure this is for the best, and I hope other low carb or keto travelers can find this helpful for their own journeys.

Anyone have any dieting tips for travel? Let me know in the comments!

West End Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

When I was in middle school or high school, I read a book called, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,” by Mark Haddon. I loved it. It was quirky and interesting, and better yet, set in my beloved England. Years passed, and it was made into a play. Knowing how much I loved the book, I was excited to see how they created a stage version it. My boyfriend and I got £15 day-of tickets for the front row of the theatre, and what happened next was pure amazement.
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With Christopher, the main character to move the story along, the rest of the cast acted as an ensemble, playing multiple parts to aid in his story. If you’re not familiar with the plot, I suggest you read it here, but the basic story is that Christopher is an autistic 15-year-old, who discovers his neighbor’s dog to be dead and then goes on a quest to find out who did it. The stage was set up like a black cube, with blocks lining the sides for the other actors to sit on and use as props. The use of theatre tech in this show was unbelievable and what sets it apart from a community theatre production.

Photo by Alastair Muir.

The book is very meta at times, with Christopher talking about how what you are reading is him writing a book about his investigations. The play takes on a similar turn, where Siobhan, his teacher is reading his book and suggests it be made into a play, with quite cheek towards the audience in this regards. You could say it almost got too meta at times, but it never pulled me out of the magic of theatre, so I wasn’t bothered. Along with the amazing set and design, which I don’t want to ruin by revealing any secrets, the use of actors as props was astounding. Through the vivid imagination of Christopher’s inner-mind, we get to see what he’s seeing, which is hard for him to express, but we can go along with him and his big thoughts as he tries to figure out what is happening in his world.

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I’m a little sad to say though that it really was the flash and intensity of the set and the carefully choreographed scenes of madness that really intrigued me. The acting was good, but nothing spectacular. I felt like I wanted a bit more from almost all of the performers, but was thankfully compensated by the beauty of the overall design to make up for that factor. I think it’s just when you go to a show on the West End, you assume they’ve chosen the best actors for the job, but performing night after night can definitely add to a dampened performance. But for me, coming from a theatre background, I’m not just looking for pop and flash in my theatre outings. I also want to see some great acting, especially when it’s a straight-play and not a musical. Musicals can lean on the music and flash to make up for bad acting, but a play has to push more.

With that being said, I still recommend this show to anyone who is a fan of the book. It’s a stunning, visual portrayal of the novel and will make you want to read it again the moment you leave the theatre.

13 Hours in the Rain: The Imitation Game Film Premiere

What does waking up at 6am in the morning, pulling myself out of bed, taking a bus over to Leicester Square and staking out a spot in the rain in front of a movie theatre equal out to? Madness, obsession, paranoia and fangirling. I am all these things. Yes, I was outside in the rain in London for a total of 13 hours on Wednesday, October 8th, for The Imitation Game film premiere. I skipped my playwriting class, was soaked by cold water, and running on pure adrenaline, all to see Benedict Cumberbatch and other celebrities in person.

As I said, I arrived around 6:30am that morning, looked around, didn’t see anyone else in front of the theatre, which made me assume I was the first person there. Little did I know, there were people who had actually camped out, but they were in another area (which is why I didn’t find them until almost 8:30am). It was raining so I sat under an arbor and began to read my book. The nearest Costa’s opened at 7:30am so I went and got some tea and then went back outside to claim my spot. At 8:30, I saw a bunch of people who looked like they were there for the premiere, but in another part of the square. I walked over there, and there were 3 people giving out numbers for a line that would form later. They looked a bit sketchy to me, but I got a number and went back to my previous spot.

Around 9am I happened to meet a very nice girl named Kelsey who had just arrived, and found out she’s from Seattle too, so it was nice to bond with a fellow West Coaster. Throughout the day, more people started turning up, getting their numbers and finally around 2:30pm, we were forced away from the front of the theatre and over to the other side of the square so they could set up the premiere. I was number 59 (although I would’ve had a better number had I known about those people earlier), and I stood in line. We were over there for about an hour and a half, and then the security people came over and rushed us into the fan pens.premiere6
I love watching a premiere get set up. It’s really magical to see the area get transformed from a tourist spot, into a place where celebrities will soon walk. In the next couple hours, all the fans got but behind our bars (much like animals, as most most of the attendees are pretty hungry for some star action), I met a lovely girl named Sophie, with whom we traded previous premiere stories, watched them roll out the red carpet, got interviewed for a video for the Bletchley Park exhibition based on the film, and became ecstatic with excitement for it all to start.
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Of course, the rain started to get really heavy as things started getting going. Stars started arriving around 6:30. Keira Knightley was the first to join the red carpet. She did interviews for ages and never made it over to our section to sign autographs. Morten Tyldum (the director), Graham Moore (the screenwriter), Mark Strong, Matthew Beard, Charles Dance, Allen Leech and more actors from the film all started to arrive. Out of all these people, Allen Leech was the only one to come to our section and sign autographs. I was happy to get at least one, especially from someone from Downton Abbey (one of my favorite shows). He was so nice and sweet too. I was glad to see him up close.
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As the night went on, other celebrities having nothing to do with the film turned up. Some of these were John Hurt, Terry Gilliam, and Andy Serkis (who snuck by at the last minute). I was happy to see all of these people. I was a little bummed though, because I’d heard a rumor that Alan Rickman was supposed to turn up and he didn’t. I was also a bit bummed because one of my favorite film composers, Alexandre Desplat, was there, but he didn’t made it to our area, which meant I couldn’t tell him how much his music inspired me.
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And of course, the person I’d been waiting for the most, Benedict Cumberbatch was one of the last stars to arrive. He actually did end up signing a lot of autographs, but none in our section, which was a bummer, but to even be that close up to him was the most amazing thing. It’s almost unreal to see your favorite actor in real life, and I’m happy I got a chance to do that. He was so sweet too. He was signing, taking selfies with fans, and then later apologized in his interview that he couldn’t sign for everyone. Even though I didn’t get his autograph or a selfie with him, I was not disappointed. I was just graced to be in his presence. I hope to catch him again at The Hobbit premiere in December, and maybe I’ll get a chance then.
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And that was my day. Being out in the rain, being in the midst of thousands of excited fans was so wonderful. The last London premiere I attended was Sherlock Holmes 2, back in December of 2011, so I was happy to be back in my element again. I may have not been as successful this time around, but I still had a wonderful day, made new friends, saw some of my favorite actors, and got to be a part of a worldwide experience that many people wished they could’ve attended. So if you have the time and patience, you can watch the full premiere coverage in this video below. You’ll definitely see me in there a couple times 🙂

West End Review: The Scottsboro Boys

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How do you create a musical about a horribly tragic story, but still make it entertaining? Well, Kander & Ebb definitely did that when they wrote The Scottsboro Boys. The other day, I happily awoke to an email from Be the Red Carpet, alerting me that I had won two top tier tickets to see The Scottsboro Boys. So I picked the night I wanted to go, and went into the play with little knowledge of the subject matter, other than a short glance at the Wikipedia article about it. It’s a very sad story about nine, young black men who were accused of raping two white girls in 1931 and spent the rest of their lives in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. I wondered how they were going to make a musical based on this subject, especially with that topic.

But I wasn’t disappointed. Kander & Ebb were certainly making a statement with this piece. In keeping with their traditional music style that they wrote Cabaret and Chicago in, they used the same flapper vibe to create a show-like performance. But this time, rather than using the settling of a jazz club, they used a controversial Minstrel Show theme. What’s interesting about this, is normally a Minstrel Show were white performers in blackface, but they turned that trope on its head and used the degrading aspects of the style with black actors in those roles. Now, from that description, you may think the show is racist; but it is definitely not. It’s hard to explain from a writing perspective what it’s about, but to see it live is truly a powerful experience.

The Scottsboro Boys Company. Photo by Richard Hubert Smith.

The show starts in a Minstrel fashion, with a white man (played by the prolific actor Julian Glover) as the Interlocutor, who basically controls the beginning of the story. There’s a Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo characters, who help run the show, and the nine Scottsboro boys act as the rest of the characters. From the dancing to the singing and staging, you forget what you’re watching could potentially be racist. But because it’s black actors, it can’t be, right? I think that’s a big factor that the director wants you to think about while you’re watching.

The thing I liked best about this music (besides the beautiful and haunting music and the fabulous choreography) was the fact that you could go from laughing very hard at one moment, and then immediately want to cry in the next moment. Is a musical supposed to do that? I think so. Not all musicals are happy and upbeat the entire time. You go to the theatre wanting to experience a lot of emotions, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next (despite knowing what would happen based on the historical facts). I was entranced and entertained, and the cast was perfect. I am glad I won tickets to this show, because I wouldn’t have probably known about it otherwise. I may actually pay this time to go see it again.

Drag Show at The Black Cap

A week ago or so, I was looking through the Londonist’s things to do for the weekend, and I found there was a charity drag show happening at The Black Cap, a famous gay bar in Camden. I decided I just had to go. I am a huge fan of drag shows and have never been to a professional one, so I bought a pair of tickets and counted down the days until the night of. It definitely did not disappoint! I had a great time, supported a good cause, as well as won one of the raffle prizes, which is a free dinner (including a bottle of wine) at The Black Cap.

This was also my first time experiencing alternative drag queens. Normally you expect them all to be like the ones on RuPaul’s Drag Race; almost indistinguishable from a female. But at The Black Cap, these queens let all that traditional stuff behind and didn’t let beards or hairy armpits hold them back from being gorgeous performers. I really admire that, and hope to catch another show there very soon. The venue was really nice as well. It reminded me of my favorite club from back home I used to frequent. I need the alternative bar scene back in my life!

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