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Saturday, July 28, 2012

The London 2012 Opening Ceremony - The Curate's Egg

"Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me; that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again."

The above speech, by Caliban from Shakespeare's The Tempest, was read by Kenneth Brannagh (playing Isambard Kingdom Brunel) as Danny Boyle's vision of Britain morphed from the green and pleasant land into the dark satanic mills of Victorian industrialisation.

NB: Caliban is forced into servitude on an island ruled by Prospero, because Caliban attempted to rape Propsero's daughter. 

Boyle's show was entertaining and it was most certainly a spectacle, in every sense of the word.

In terms of presenting history in a linear format, David Starkey et al were doubtless rolling their eyes in horror, it was a mishmash (of Boyle's "choice cuts") albeit an entertaining one.

I was very amused to see that Boyle had managed to persuade the Queen to take on a cameo role and allowed herself to be escorted to the Games by "James Bond" via helicopter, from which she "parachuted" into the stadium.

The two criticisms I would make are as follows:

1 The Second World War and, most specifically, the Blitz were ignored. Like it or not, that was a defining moment in this country's history in the 20th century. To ignore that ignores how we have arrived at where we are today, including the fact that the war paved the way for the creation of Boyle's precious NHS and welfare state.

2 Whilst the NHS is a key milestone and achievement in this country's history, it is not the be all and end all of this island's long history. Boyle devoted too much of the show to a segment that gave a distorted 1940's fantasy of what the NHS never was or will be. Political point scoring is all very well, but the opening ceremony of the Olympics is not the place for such point scoring.

That being said, the opening ceremony did what it said on the tin; namely provide a well choreographed show to open the games, that contained the core British characteristic of self deprecation (step forward Her Majesty and Mr Bean to take a well deserved bow).

As to whether anyone not born in the UK understood what was going on, well I will leave that to foreign commentators to discuss!

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