Sunday, 29 July 2012
NICE ONE DANNY, TRULY AN OLYMPIC EFFORT
London 2012 Opening Ceremony Music – ‘And I Will Kiss’ by Underworld (ft. Dame Evelyn Glennie)
Okay, I’m not a sports fan but I am a big fan of Danny Boyle, just like most people who enjoy great movies are. He has a unique vision of storytelling, often kinda queasy, kinda dark, kinda colourful, kinda weird, kinda subtly moving and subtly amusing at the same time, and always with tons of energy. He tells stories on film unlike anyone else. I mean, could anyone else have made Slumdog Millionaire the fantastic movie that it is? Could anyone else have made Trainspotting like that? Or 127 Hours? I don’t think so. He has a way of getting in to deep dark places and finding the bright light of humanity buried there. But when I heard he was going to be behind the opening ceremony for London 2012 I was conflicted.
On the one hand I thought it was a genius idea. Here’s a guy with a vibrant and unique vision of the world. He could do something truly different, truly mesmerising. Something no one else could ever do. On the other hand, it could easily end up as a jumbled unfocussed, garish mess. The London 2012 opening ceremony was either gonna be one of the coolest things I’ll ever see or one of the most embarrassing messes in entertainment history.
But Danny only went and did it, by gum!
What a truly dazzling, energised, engrossing, and just plain fun spectacle it was. Big and colourful, often chaotic, sometimes dark, sometimes emotional and always all kinds of eccentric, not to mention pleasingly humorous. In short, this particular Olympics opening ceremony was very, very British.
The themes I picked out were perfect. Change, innovation, creativity and caring. The main thread running through it all seemed to be about how, through innovation, we, the British, have irrevocably changed our nation and the rest of the world on at least two occasions. First there was the industrial revolution, and then there was the invention of the worldwide web, with all the good and ill that came with both. But above all the show was about who we are as a people. What it is we hold most precious, what it is we value above all. Danny Boyle seems to think it is our social reforms. And I would agree. All of those many great reforms that were so hard fought for down through the ages in order to try to build that promised mythic Jerusalem, with the most obvious as highlighted in the ceremony being our National Health Service. Now, of course, our NHS is not perfect. We’re not stupid. We know that. It has lots of problems. Things that need fixing. But that doesn’t mean that the idea itself, the belief is wrong. Universal healthcare free at the point of use with the provision of treatment based upon clinical need. No, it is not wrong at all. And as an idea, a belief, it deserves to be celebrated.
“…no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
- Nye Bevan, the Government Minister who oversaw the NHS’s creation in 1948
The rest of the world may not have understood why the NHS played such a big part in the Olympics Opening Ceremony. I do. It is the prime example of those social reforms Danny was keen to celebrate. Reforms based upon beliefs which help define how we see ourselves as a people. Yes, the United Kingdom remains a capitalist society – stalwarts of hard headed international trade and business and finance. But the British have always had a strong sense of social justice too - from William Wilberforce and the slavery abolitionists, to Dickens to Emily Pankhurst and the suffragettes, to the foundation of the modern welfare state and the creation of the NHS in 1948. Such a wonderful dichotomy, I know. But I got what Danny was doing. And he did it brilliantly.
Here are some of my favourite bits from the show:
The entirety of the opening ‘Pandemonium’ sequence with Kenneth Branagh as Brunel
JK Rowling reading from Peter Pan
The many Mary Poppins’ flying down to defend the kids in the hospital beds against the monsters
The spelling out of NHS
James Bond and the Queen and the blatant The Spy Who Loved Me homage
Tim Burners Lee “For Everyone”
The amazing design of the cauldron when finally revealed. A real ‘WOW’ moment.
Sir Paul McCartney leading the crowd with Hey Jude. He wasn’t in his best voice but you can’t go wrong with THAT song.
In the end, Danny Boyle and his army of volunteers created a wonderfully colourful, chaotic and utterly idiosyncratic piece of theatre that no other country could (or would) do in quite the same way. It was a celebration of people, of storytelling, of creativity, of past, present and future. And I for one bloody loved it.
Nice one Danny.