How To Spend It

Destinations | Perfect Weekend

Edward Watson’s London

The Royal Ballet principal was the winner of last year’s Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in dance for his performance in Arthur Pita’s “The Metamorphosis”

February 08 2013
Claire Wrathall

“Weekends are recovery time for me, so I try to avoid being too busy. They’re the only days that I don’t either go to the gym or do Pilates first thing, and I can get up a bit late. But on Saturdays, even if I haven’t got a show that evening, I’m still at the Royal Opera House by 9.30am to warm up before class, after which I’ll have a rehearsal till 1.30pm, and lastly a massage.

So my weekend doesn’t really start until the afternoon, when, ideally, I’ll catch up with non-dancer friends over a very late, very long lunch at Sophie’s Steakhouse. It’s good to sit down with some wine and talk about things other than ballet.

I might also go shopping in Covent Garden. I’m not very brave with fashion; I’ve been talked into purchasing too many things I’ve then never left the house in. But I do buy a lot at Paul & Joe on Floral Street. And after that I’ll walk home across Waterloo Bridge, which has the best views in London.

Early evening is all about indulging in trash TV. The X Factor. And I loved Darcey [Bussell, the former Royal Ballet principal] on Strictly Come Dancing. I just can’t help myself. It’s a great way to wind down, watching other people get stressed about their showtime – much better than obsessing about your own.

Later, I like to go to The Club at The Ivy. It’s a great place for a late supper. Often a group of us from the company will meet there, or I’ll hook up with my actor friends at about 10.30pm, when they finish work if they’re in West End shows. What I eat depends a lot on which costumes I’ve got to wear the following week. If I’m going to have hardly anything on, then I have to be a bit careful. Still, I do like meat and chips, so my automatic reaction is to opt for that. It’s nice to let go a bit.

On Sunday, if I don’t wake too late, my favourite thing to do is to take a taxi to Columbia Road flower market in east London. I sometimes buy plants, as my flat has a little bit of outdoor space, and also flowers. The girls in the company get sent loads of bouquets, but I don’t: I have to buy my own.

I’ll arrange to meet some friends for a big breakfast at Jones Dairy: a bacon sandwich and lots of coffee. We might have a look in the shops – there’s a really good one called Wawa that sells beautiful mirrors and sofas – and the galleries, too, such as Two Columbia Road.

Occasionally, I like to see a film on a Sunday because I’m usually too tired during the week; the lights go down, and I’m asleep. I saw the French film Untouchable not long ago, and I thought that was great. It was really moving and funny. But usually I’ll spend the rest of Sunday at home, making phone calls to my family and Skyping my brother, who lives in Dubai. I’ll take time to prepare for the week ahead: sewing elastic on to my ballet shoes, watching DVDs of the roles I’m learning, or listening to the music I’ll be dancing to.

I also read a lot. When I was preparing to dance des Grieux in Manon, I read the Abbé Prévost novel it’s based on. There are so many more events in the book than in the ballet, so it gives you real insight into his character. The first time I danced Rudolf in Mayerling, a role I can’t wait to perform again, I even went to Vienna and to Mayerling itself [site of the apparent murder-suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his mistress].

I’m the worst cook in the world, so for supper I’ll just heat something up. I keep thinking that one day I’ll learn to make at least a couple of dishes… And eventually I’ll go to bed, although I never sleep on a Sunday. I love what I do and don’t want to do anything else, but I can’t be relaxed about it. That’s why I can let go a little at weekends, safe in the knowledge that I’ll be highly strung again by Monday.”