Usher Rocks Roundhouse, Erotic Picasso: London Weekend

Usher, a U.S. musician, stars at the 2012 iTunes festival in London. Usher Terry Raymond IV opens a free event that includes 60 artists spread over 30 days of events. Source: RCA Records via Bloomberg.

Damon Albarn heads for Africa.

The Blur singer is joining tonight’s gig by the Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, once the pillar of Fela Kuti’s rhythm section. Martina Topley Bird will also perform. The concert takes place in an unlikely venue: the Royal Opera House’s small Linbury Studio Theatre.

It’s all part of an African culture weekend curated by artist Yinka Shonibare and sponsored by Deloitte LLP.


Alternatively, you can watch the man who conducted Mr. Bean during the Olympics opening ceremony.

Simon Rattle will work his baton with the Berlin Philharmonic tonight as they perform a Lutoslawski symphony and Brahms’s 2nd piano concerto with Yefim Bronfman as the soloist.

Information: or +44-845-401-5040.


The male midlife crisis is spectacularly showcased in a free exhibition ending this weekend.

During the 1930s, Pablo Picasso -- in his fifties and involved with much younger Marie-Therese Walter -- produced a frenzied series of 100 etchings that became known as the Vollard Suite (after dealer Ambroise Vollard). A complete set has just been acquired by the British Museum.

The powerful ensemble is inspired by Greek myth and by the prints of Rembrandt and Goya, which are helpfully exhibited on the same wall. Yet as rampant old Minotaurs lustily eye naked girls, the true subject of the etchings seems to be Picasso himself: the man, the artist, the apparently tireless lover.

“Picasso Prints: The Vollard Suite” ends Sunday in Room 90 of the British Museum. Information: or +44-20-7323-8000.

Vintage punk rockers the Buzzcocks headline the 1-2-3-4 Festival in Shoreditch Park. The annual event keeps up the practice of topping the bill with a cult-status act surrounded by loads of up-and-coming names such as Crocodiles and Iceage.


Duke’s Brew & Que is a popular barbecue restaurant near Shoreditch Park. Fans travel from across London for the pork ribs and the pulled-pork sliders. There’s an American brunch at weekends. Information: or +44-20-3006-079.

Saturday Night

The James Bond author had an affair with a landowning belle that’s now being re-enacted on the London stage.

“Volcano” -- a long-lost 1956 play by Noel Coward -- is all about Ian Fleming’s tryst with a beautiful plantation owner, and Coward wrote it while a tax exile in Jamaica. He kept it under wraps for a long time to avoid hurting friends’ feelings.

Besides the usual Coward love triangles and word plays, there’s an added twist: an angry volcano whose eruptions punctuate the serial adultery.

“Volcano” is at the Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, WC2R 0NH, through Sept. 29. Information: +44-844-579-1975 or

The Savoy Grill is across the Strand from the Vaudeville and is the perfect spot for dinner before or after “Volcano.” Noel Coward dined here with Fleming. These days, the restaurant is run by Gordon Ramsay. Information: or +44-20-7592-1600.


Don’t be surprised if Hamlet accosts you on Sunday.

Fifty Shakespearean actors aged between 17 and 70 are fanning out across the capital this weekend, playing the Bard’s best-known characters. Looking like any other pedestrian at first, they break into verse and start strange dialogues.

The event -- a celebration of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, which run through Sept. 9 -- is the brainchild of award-winning actor Mark Rylance and includes deaf and disabled performers.

“What You Will: Pop-Up Shakespeare” takes place throughout the weekend in unspecified locations around the capital, and is sponsored by Mayor of London Boris Johnson.


The iTunes festival at the Roundhouse, starting this weekend, offers 30 nights of free music with more than 60 artists taking part. Tickets are free and shows can be viewed for a limited time online after each performance.

Usher plays on Sept. 1 and Ed Sheeran stars on Sept. 2. Performing on subsequent dates this week are Olly Murs, Plan B, Emeli Sande and JLS.

Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, NW1 8EH. Information: +44-844-482-8008, or

(Farah Nayeri and Mark Beech write for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on art, Jason Harper on autos, Richard Vines on food and Rich Jaroslovsky on technology.

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