Last updated: 11:16 AM ET, Wed August 05 2015

Theater, Art and the London Eye Ready for Fall

Destination & Tourism | James Ruggia | August 04, 2015

Theater, Art and the London Eye Ready for Fall

PHOTO: By its 15th birthday, the London Eye has traveled more than the circumference of the earth without ever leaving the South Bank of the Thames. (Courtesy of London & Partners)

As the most visible of all of Britain’s Millennium Projects that went up in the year 2000, when Y2K had us all hiding under our covers, the London Eye continues to drive some 25 million visitors annually to London’s South Bank, enough to make Big Ben feel lonesome. Since it opened 15 years ago, the London Eye has traveled some 32,393 miles, about 1.3 times the circumference of the earth. As it made that journey, carrying some 800 passengers per rotation in 32 capsules (one for each borough of London), it has managed to take almost 60 million people on its 30-minute rotation, giving them views of nearly 25 miles as far as Windsor Castle.

The whole world seems to be turning its eyes to London this year as the city sets its sights on the home stretch of 2015 with the prospect of setting another record for arrivals well within reach. Visit London is projecting that 18.8 million international visitors will arrive by year’s end, with U.S. travelers accounting for the most visits out of the city’s top 10 overseas markets.

The home stretch should continue thanks to what Visit London calls the “Autumn Season of Culture.” It all begins in September with the Totally Thames 2015 festival, which brings London’s riverine heart to life with a torrent of events.

Last year the festival drew 2.7 million people to 134 events. Some 200 events this year will bring theatre, choirs, opera, concerts, visual art all along the 42 miles of Thames River front in London. There are also plenty of ways to actively engage the river with different sorts of sailing experiences as well as the 20k Thames Bridges Trek and the fishing, kayaking and boat trips at Tidefest, to the annual Source to Sea River Relay. Totally Thames takes place across the whole month of September.

Fall Theatre Highlights

London is home to nearly 250 stages, and on a typical night, roughly 3,000 actors hit the boards. It figures to be a typically great season for London theater with some of the highlights including King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings (Nov. 7 to Jan. 24), which will be presented at the Barbican by the Royal Shakespeare Company to commemorate Shakespeare's 400th anniversary year, by bringing together his greatest tetralogy of History plays. Richard II and Henry IV Parts I and II will be joined by a new production of Henry V, which premieres in Stratford-upon-Avon this autumn, marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. Benedict Cumberbatch will also bring what is likely to be a most petulant Hamlet to the boards of the Barbican through Oct. 31.

Jane Eyre comes to the National Theatre (Sept. 8 to Oct. 25) directed by Sally Cookson as does Alistair McDowall’s Pomona (Sept. 10 to Oct.10). Elf the Musical takes the stage at the Dominion Theatre (Oct 24 to Jan. 2). Sinatra: The Man & His Music will run through Oct. 10 at the Palladium and the Athenaeum Hotel & Apartments has created several red carpet packages to celebrate this special performance. A one-night deluxe room stay with two premium tickets to the show, a three course dinner overnight and full English breakfast is £575 ($898); two nights with additional champagne on arrival, chocolate dipped strawberries, afternoon tea, chocolates and popcorn for the show plus a special show program is priced at £1,029 ($1,607).

Fall Visual Arts Highlights

Last year Matisse sent the crowds in big numbers to the Tate Modern which will follow up this year with a comprehensive show on Pop Art, The World Goes Pop (Sept. 17 to Jan. 24), which will show how artists around the world engaged with the spirit of Pop. The Tate Britain will feature Frank Auerbach (Oct. 9 to Feb. 14) and Alexander Calder (Nov. 1 to April 3). The contemporary Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will exhibit at the Royal Academy of Arts (Sept. 19 to Dec. 13). The British Museum will put on a major show of Celtic Art (Sept. 24 to Jan. 31) that flourished in Britain and Europe from 500 BCE onwards.

The V&A will have a variety of big shows including the Fabric of India (Sept. 26 to Jan 10) and the pioneering photography of Julia Margaret Cameron (Nov. 28 to Feb. 14). A large-scale Giacometti exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (Oct.15 to Jan. 10) will consist of rarely or previously unseen loans from private collections as well as important works from museum collections worldwide. The National Gallery will exhibit Goya’s Portraits (Oct. 7 to Jan. 10); the paintings of Peder Balke (Nov. 12 to April 12); and Maggi Hambling’s Walls of Water

Nov. 26 to Feb. 15.

The Frieze Art Fair at Regent’s Park (Oct. 14 to 17) takes over a sizeable part of the royal park, as art dealers and galleries show off cutting edge work. Focusing mainly on contemporary art, visitors are able to browse and buy art from more than 160 different galleries. In 2014, the event added live spaces, where performance-based installations were showcased. 

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