Passnotes: ‘Great Britain – The Musical’

All together now: “We all live in an Olympic Stadium, an Olympic Stadium…”

So, the Olympic Opening Ceremony was pretty impressive, wasn’t it?

Pardon. Why are you whispering? Could you speak up a bit please?

No sorry, I still can’t hear you.

I said: ‘Actually I didn’t think it was very good’.

What? You cannot be serious? Better keep your voice down in case the Brand Police prosecute you for unnatural behaviour. Anyway does it make you feel better for coming out with such a statement in public?  I believe you can now get your problem chemically treated on the NHS…

Well the way I see it the Olympic Opening Ceremony is basically an opportunity to provide a showcase UK TV marketing message to the rest of the world, which apparently includes 95% of the viewers. It also has something to do with sport.

But what we got was ‘GB – The Musical‘, a rather confusing and quirky message giving too much emphasis on the fading glory of our past achievements, through a nostalgic, over-sanitised, self-indulgent, fairy-tale, utopian, time-line distorted mish-mash Larkrise to Candleford, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins meets Harry Potter in an archaic-looking 1948 NHS Yellow Submarine hospital, all with the incompetent Mr Bean and an unconvincing James Bond stunt thrown in, and ultimately a slightly tragic Paul McCartney singalongolympic ending. Back in the late 1960s we said we wanted a revolution. And this is what we ended up with.

Hey, you better slow down a bit, you’re getting all out of adjectives…

Yes, thanks, I think I better had.    Ah, that’s better. Now where was I? Oh yes…

With the possible exception of an embarrassed-looking personal appearance by the real Tim Berners Lee, and a simplistic rom-com boy meets girl using a mobile phone. it made Great Britain seem more like a glorified heritage theme-park visitor attraction than the hub of 21st century innovative business opportunity and sustainable high-tech investment centre of the future.

Well, yes. I suppose so, maybe. If you say so. But Mr Bean was ‘absolutely hilarious’ wasn’t he?
I had him down as ‘mildly amusing’

And the Queen jumping out of the helicopter? Absolutely brilliant!
Yes, that would have been truly memorable if she actually had done.

It was also much too long – ‘less is more’ did not not seem to be a consideration! I agree the stagecraft was good, but the choreography and acting was poor – I’ve seen better end-of-term school productions.

What in Olympic’s name were you expecting then?
Back in 1992 I visited the UK pavilion at Expo 92 in Spain. The pavilion was remarkable – a wall of water – and inside there was a stunning video display presentation involving extremely positive images of a high-tech country, speeding positively and confidently towards the future. There was also a ten minute multi-media ‘performance’ portraying a future ‘day in the life’, which was quite outstanding.

So overall I felt that the ceremony dwelt too much on the past, and in doing so conveyed a confusing collage of a country that is looking backwards rather than forwards.  And it didn’t take any risks, and was not very well performed. But it seems everyone else enjoyed it, so I guess it’s just my problem!

So was there nothing you thought was good about it?
Yes! The short opening film sequence following the path of the Thames, the lighting system effects, Thomas Heatherwick’s cauldron, and the sheer logistics of getting so many people in the right place at the right time.

Just a minute, this is supposed to be blog about education, or have you forgotten all about that for once?

Hmm. Yes. But the Olympic Opening Ceremony wasn’t about sport, either, so no problem, I reckon…

If you missed it all, or have a strange desire to watch it all over again, apparently it is due to be repeated in its entirety on BBC1 on the afternoon of Sat 18th August. It can also be seen on iPlayer, and there is a good description of it here:

Not to be confused with: women’s beach volley ball; running, jumping and standing still.

Don’t say: ‘The social impact of media and government-led propaganda on the collective psyche of the population’ might be a good subject to study at University.

Do say: I’ve been a life-long fan of athletics and go and support my local club every Saturday afternoon, so any suggestion that my desire to think about and watch nothing else than the Olympics is no more than a two-week wonder is complete and utter nonsense.

Oh, and…

Image credit: shimelle

6 comments on “Passnotes: ‘Great Britain – The Musical’

  1. I don’t want to appear unduly pessimistic about our great nation, especially on the day of Sir Bradley of Wiggins’ great time trial triumph, but don’t you think extremely positive images of a UK speeding confidently and positively towards the future, while possibly believable in 1992, would have, in 2012, led to some serious confusion around the world as to what country the opening ceremony could possibly be referring to?

  2. Thanks Tristram for adding the message I had written on Twitter.
    Well, I guess the street hanging baskets, the red pillar boxes and the thatched roof cottages are what Great Britain wants to be remebered for!

  3. Here at my house, we wondered what on earth it had to do with the Olympics? But then again, are these types of ceremonies supposed to be a chance for the hosting country to try and explain itself?

    As a show in itself it was spectacular and sparked lots of memories of things we in the UK might remember, but ultimately, what did it really show the rest of the world?

    Maybe it showed how we brought about the destruction of rural life in exchange for big industry and then helped the rest of the world do the same? Bringing hard-working misery of the many for the wealth of a few top-hats?

    Or perhaps it showed how we have multi-culturally influenced music over the last few decades all headed by a wheeled out Sir Paul McCartney. Go Team GB: The Musical!

    The NHS segment was a bit behind the times being more like a 1950s Mary Poppins celebration of how things used to be. I’m sure the NHS is still admirable when compared to other countries and systems, and I’m still generally pleased with it but we have seen its problems and government interfering/cuts too. Also our Queen can look a bit grumpy and she did look like she was a bit fed-up throughout the show. The gag with the Queen and 007 was amusingly unbelievable at first but fell apart with the helicopter business.

    So, a fantastic production? Yes. Probably the most expensive musical/show on earth. Olympic ceremony opening? Different, possibly weird and embarrassing, but with a good multicultural open attitude represented. However, as said by others here, what else did it show of what we can do in the 21st century?

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