Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic games

I was lucky that Ruth won a couple of tickets to the rehearsal of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic games last Monday. We were all asked to keep it a surprise and I was pleased to see that most people had kept the details secret. I hadn't taken my camera with me, but used Ruth's camera phone and managed to get a few images. The wildflower meadow in front of the stadium was lovely in the sunshine.

I was really pleased that I had experienced the ceremony live when I watched it again on TV. The experience of being there was much more viceral, the sheer volume of the music and drumming and the effects of light and smoke were intense. Though on TV we saw more of the action from the other side of the stadium and the more personal touches that Danny Boyle had set up for viewers. We also hadn't seen every section of the ceremony at the rehearsal, including the athletes parade and lighting the cauldron of course.

We were only 19 rows back from the front and near one of the main entrances for the performers, so saw lots of the changes and change overs with performers and props, which added to the excitement.
The plumes of fire that accompanied Prodigy's Firestarter song also felt pretty hot from our seats, so I don't know how hot they were to the front row!

 At the rehearsal I was really hoping that Danny Boyle would pull off something amazing, but not really knowing if he could. My fears were allieviated from the start with seeing the tree and mound representing Glastonbury Tor and when the teams came in carrying different sized clouds and walked around the stadium, just surreal.

The change over form rural Britain to the Industrial Revolution was incredible, I was impressed by the fact the physical movement of the change over was made into an unmissable spectacle. The stadium was cleared of the rural props, including the cottages  in almost choreographic movement and the tall smoking chimneys rose up accompanied by hundreds of drummers beating a pulse of dynamic energy.

We could see the forging of the Olympic rings clearer on the TV, but the glowing rings and shower of sparks raining down in the rehearsal was brilliant, literally in lighting terms. The suffragettes and Jarrow march came down the road near our position and the Windrush came out of the entrance near to us too.

On TV you could see the business men measuring up the green and pleasant land and see the pleasure on their faces as the chimneys, mines and weaving looms were working. Great acting by everyone too, who all were taking their roles with the right degree of irony and seriousness. In the rehearsal you had the overall spectacle of the change which was pretty dramatic and riveting.

When the huge beds came out, I was really surprised and pleased, the NHS being celebrated as one of the powerful shaping forces of the nation at a time when it has never felt so under threat.  Real nurses danced with the volunteers and lots of children bouncing on the beds. I wasn't sure what the rest of the world would make of it.

When the nightmares began I was holding my breath, the giant Voldermort complete with lit up eyes and wand showering sparks was a great addition, the black covered figures twisting on the aerial wires and the horse headed, literal night mares all dancing around made a great spectacle.The lighting on each seat was set as scarey eyes which was great. When the dozens of Mary Poppins figures descended with their lit up umbrellas we were all laughing and shouting encouragement.

There were so many references from British culture I'm sure people could spend quite a few hours teasing them all out. We only had the helicopter hovering overhead in the rehearsal, and hoped James Bond would decend on the opening night. So It was a shame when he didn't, but I loved the piece with the Queen. We also didn't see the Mr Bean piece, which really made me laugh. I was thinking that at least Mr Bean would translate across continents.

The last section we saw at the rehearsal was all the dance and film pieces, how many songs were in there? I couldn't keep up with them all, the energy and enthusiasm of the thousands of performers was palpable. At the end I was left profoundly happy that Danny Boyle had found so many aspects to being British  and presented them to us with the importance that they deserve, and doing that with our humour and eccentricity too.

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