Great London Weekend: Irving Penn, Chopin, Lanford Wilson and Jamie Oliver

Preview by Farah Nayeri

Steal a glimpse of a sulking Nicole Kidman as the Friday stop on your weekend in London.

The actress was among the few to be photographed by Irving Penn (1917-2009) in the last decade of his life. The result hangs in the National Portrait Gallery's exquisite show "Irving Penn: Portraits" (through June 6).

Penn produced his best work 50 years earlier, in a New York studio strewn with cigarette butts and bits of thread; one sitter who whinged about the mess went home unphotographed. There's Alfred Hitchcock, in an inelegant squatting position; Edith Piaf, hands entwined in her lap; and Truman Capote, wedged into a corner in a herringbone coat.

If you can't see the show, get the fine catalog. Information: +44-20-7306-0055 or

Saturday Afternoon

Ever wondered what Frederic Chopin's left hand looked like? You can find out on Saturday.

Unexpectedly small, with long, slender fingers, the hand — or, rather, a plaster cast of it sculpted hours after his death — is on display in the British Library exhibition "Chopin: The Romantic Refugee" (through May 16), one of many global tributes to the composer and pianist that mark the 200th anniversary of his birth.

Chopin gave his last five concerts in Britain and the show includes historic recordings of the pieces he played.

Also on view are his death mask, a facsimile of his passport and the manuscript of a mazurka written at his lover George Sand's summer getaway — a few bars diligently crossed out to make it fully legible by the publisher.

Information: +44-1937-546546 or

Saturday Night

Watch two thirtysomething suburban couples wrestle with the pains of adulthood at the Donmar Warehouse.

"Serenading Louie" plots the lives of Alex, a high- powered lawyer, and Carl, a property developer, as their hopes and marriages fritter away. The same decor is used to represent each couple's home, a reference to the uniformity of human existence.

The play, written by Lanford Wilson, is staged by Simon Curtis. Information: or +44-844- 871-7624.

Belgo Central, opposite the Donmar, is part of a loud and lively chain with mussels and beer. For somewhere quieter, Mon Plaisir, on nearby Monmouth Street, has been serving French bistro fare for more than half a century.

Information:, +44- 207813-2233;; +44-20-7836-7243.

Sunday Lunch

The River Cafe is the perfect spot for Sunday lunch around Hammersmith. The restaurant, whose kitchen counts Jamie Oliver among its alumni, helped introduce Britons to seasonal Italian food. Book early at or +44-20-7386- 4200.

Sunday Night

Chris Rea plays Hammersmith on Sunday evening, drawing on an impressive catalog, with more than 30 million records sold. Kickstarted by "Fool (If You Think It's Over)" in 1978, the singer-songwriter's hits include "Josephine," "On the Beach" and "Driving Home for Christmas."

Chris Rea, HMV Hammersmith Apollo, 45 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 9QH. Information: or +44-8448-4447-48.

(Farah Nayeri writes for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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