Art, architecture, theatre and music: London’s September highlights

Should you be scheduled to visit London on business this September or if you’re thinking about making the trip to the UK capital for an end-of-summer short-break when the prices are slightly less (and looking to make savings by staying at one of the Heathrow Airport-friendly hotels near Hounslow Central station too), then you’ll find many an event going on this month in the city…

 classical artwork at hydepark

Totally Thames

(WC2H 7BP/ 1st-22nd September)

This month-long season is (ahem) buoyed, to say the least, by many an excellent river-related event taking place along the Thames’s entire 42-mile course through the capital. The festival – much of which is free – celebrates the main waterway which winds its way through the heart of the city, through a diverse mix of art, music and educational events both on the water and along its banks and bridges at various riverside locations from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge and beyond.

This year, the event looks at the river as a source of creativity that connects London to other cities around the world. Events include Rivers of the World, an exhibition of river-inspired artwork created by young people from around the world; Mother Danube, a week of free performance at unique riverside locations; and Bascule Chamber Concerts, a programme of events curated by Iain Chambers in the atmospheric subterranean Victorian space.

Renzo Piano architecture exhibition

(Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly W1J 0BD/ 15th September 2018-20th January 2019)

He has designed some of the most striking buildings in our modern cities, from the Pompidou Centre in Paris to London’s very own, utterly iconic cloud-piercing Shard tower and the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In September 2018, Renzo Piano is the subject of the first annual architecture exhibition in the Royal Academy’s newly refurbished galleries in Burlington Gardens. The first survey exhibition on the ‘starchitect’ in London for almost 30 years, the display will document his early days as a young architect working with Richard Rogers and move on to more recent projects. See his landmark buildings through rarely displayed drawings, models and full-scale maquettes in an exhibition which reveals the process behind his best-known creations.

Olivier Theatre

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra

(Olivier Theatre at the National Theatre, South Bank SE1 8XZ/ 18th September 2018-19th January 2019)

Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo play the Bard’s legendarily tragic ancient-world lovers at the Laurence Olivier’s iconic National Theatre on the famed South Bank, as Simon Godwin follows the success of his take of the much-loved classical theatre comedy Twelfth Night with another Shakespeare production. Hotel Rwanda actress Okonedo took to the stage in 2017 to star opposite Homeland star Damian Lewis and now the acclaimed thesp squares up to another ‘A-list’ leading man, playing the Egyptian queen while Ralph Fiennes, recognisable to millions from The English Patient, Schindler’s List and so much more, portrays Roman ruler Mark Antony. More than worth the short hop into Central London, via the Tube, from the Best Western Plus Park Grand London Heathrow hotel for a fantastic evening’s worth of superior entertainment.

Open House London

(various venues/22nd-23rd September)

Finally, on just one weekend of the calendar year, members of the public can go behind doors that are, for the entire rest of the year, closed to them, so they might see inside some of the capital’s architectural landmarks. Yes, the free Open House London initiative then allows access to more than 800 of the city’s sites and buildings. Do you research and check for his year’s venues (they’re yet to be announced), but to give you an idea, last year’s open-to-all buildings included the revamped New Scotland Yard, London’s latest tower, nicknamed ‘the vase’, an urban farm in Waterloo, an exhibition by ‘starchitect’ Norman Foster and the gargantuan and highly impressive science destination that’s the Francis Crick Institute at King’s Cross. Across the weekend, some of the venues’ architects may very well be on hand to give talks and tours of their buildings too.

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