Almost two months ago, I wrote an article wondering why the Royal Jubilee did not bring more Great British Theatre to the celebrations. After watching the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, I now understand – they were saving it for now. In an astonishing display of creativity, discipline, imagination, and patriotism, Danny Boyle and all involved in the ceremony produced a phenomenal piece of theatre, encompassing the Best of British in an enjoyable and moving way.
Four years ago after the spectacle that was Beijing , we all cringed at the site of the double-decker bus and Boris Bikes. With that in mind, I was a little nervous about what was in store this year. Never have I been more wrong. Upon the first glimpse of pastoral England, with May-pole dancers and a gaggle of geese, I knew we were in for something unique and fundamentally ours.
Kenneth Branagh, king of stage and screen, our favourite Hamlet, and insightful director, led the way through the ages in top hat and tails (which I am particularly fond of). I thought it a nice touch to quote what is arguably Shakespeare’s worst play, The Tempest, but to such a wonderful and emotive effect. Building up the industrial revolution, it was a true delight to see a combination of acting and dance, as well as possibly the most complicated and impressive scene change I have ever seen.
The ceremony had it all – a monstrous Voldemort, gangs of Mary Poppinses, nods to iconic music from the last half-century, plus an abundance of enthusiastic volunteers and an undoubtedly phenomenal back stage crew. Even the inclusion of Mr. Bean didn’t do much to stem my enjoyment of the celebration, and the surprise of the Queen with James Bond just added to the hilarity but ultimately British ensemble. Alongside the festivity and buzz, the designers were beautifully sensitive in including a piece by Akram Khan and Emeli Sande to commemorate those who were lost during the 7/7 bombings just a short while after the honour of hosting was announced across London.
And of course, the finale, the lighting of the final Olympic Flame could not have been better. Two of our great sportsmen, David Beckham and Steve Redgrave, brought the torch to its resting place in the stadium, only to pass it on to the hope of future generations, seven young athletes nominated as potential Olympiads. Designed by Thomas Heatherwick, the cauldron was in fact 240 copper flowers, whose long stems rose some 28feet to produce a truly remarkable symbol.
The Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics can be summed up, I believe, in the word ‘inclusion’. People from all walks of life came together to celebrate our nation and our capital city. There has been some criticism that the rest of the world won’t understand parts of the event, but does that matter? This was a chance for Britain to show who we are and what we do, and they did so with finesse, humour, and creativity. People will always be cynical about these types of events, and we Brits definitely know how to pick something apart, but I hope that beneath it all, there resides a sense of national pride and appreciation for this brilliant performance.