Seven years in the making and the London 2012 Olympic Games kick off with a ceremony that, for lack of a better phrase, was pretty wild. Sitting through the almost four-hour runtime it provided plenty of talking points for viewers watching not only in England but around the world. I suffered from changeable opinions ranging from the ceremony being long and insufferable to appreciating the manic glee on offer. Like Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein play, this felt like a multi-faceted performance: strange and beguiling; fascinating and incomprehensible all at the same time.
What exactly Kenneth Branagh was doing, or reading from, I did not pick up straight away (thank heavens for the BBC commentary save the bore that was Trevor Nelson). It added to the sense that this extravagant ceremony was incredibly dense, featuring allusions and references to culture that went over audiences’ heads. It poked fun at itself, it seemed to rile some Conservative party members (hooray); it confused some American commentators who thought Kenneth Branagh was good old Abe Lincoln (note: mutton chops can confuse people). It was nothing if not incredibly ambitious, very spectacular and the more than little jarring as Boyle tried to visually show the birth and influence of Modern Britain (I think he forgot to include Maggie Thatcher in it somewhere).
…a celebration of Britain…
And how does it reflect on us as a country? Will anybody care or will the Games motor along replacing the headlines of the opening ceremony? Who knows really what other countries think of it, what they managed to interpret from the kind of ceremony that would require Cliff Notes. It was a celebration of Britain, the progress we’ve made since those dark satanic mills erupted during the Industrial Revolution, to Starman himself David Bowie and the Mini Cooper (owned by a German car company “cough cough”). If anything it finally confirmed what we’ve known in our hearts and heads.
We are an island of very odd people.