Category Archives: Event

The Greatest Show On Earth – London 2012 Opening Ceremony

Last night I was one of the 27.9+ million television viewers watching, quite possibly, the most amazing opening ceremony for any Olympics ever.  Danny Boyle, the master mind director behind it has made a negative nation proud – no mean feat for anyone.

We saw the models of the set, we all commented how it looked like Tellytubby land – but as everything moved, as everything evolved, as everything pulsed, we saw Great Britain.  ‘An opening ceremony’, I remarked earlier this week and again last night, ‘shouldn’t make sense.  It should be a combination of things to do with the host country and leave people scratching their heads.’  Well actually, maybe I was wrong.  This told a story – not some flouncy made up story of a child on a star that leads them to some universe of stilt walkers with silk tails – but of a nation.   Yes it may have left out the negative bits (quell surprise) but it also left out a lot of the great (it was long enough as it was!)  Overall we saw the changes to a country that in term helped shape the world we live in.

As a show it was fantastic.  Amazing music, great visuals, stunning use of lighting technology (all those lights on the seats – wow!) and some fantastic performances.  No one can beat the Queen meeting James Bond – well apart from the actor who played the parachuting Queen that is.  Even Paul McCartney not quite being in time with his click track couldn’t cast darkness over the proceedings.

And then the all important lighting of the Olympic flame.  I’ve followed that flame online across the country.  I cheered it when I went to see it come through Birmingham, and beamed with pride when I watched a friend’s Mum carry it.  Steve Redgrave was the perfect choice.  It was great when he went to meet Beckham on the boat to get it… but then perfect was improved.  Having seven great Olympians nominate seven up and coming sportsmen and ladies was inspired (Rower Cameron MacRitchie, 19, Sailor Callum Airlie, 17, London 2012 Young Ambassador Jordan Duckitt, 18, Runner Desiree Henry, 16, Runner Katie Kirk, 18, Javelin thrower Aidan Reynolds, 18, Runner Adelle Tracey, 19).  That is the legacy that these Olympics is about.  So not only did us Brits get that bit right, we also had the best cauldron ever.  Made of copper petals representing every nation taking part that once lit rose to create a flaming flower.  Yes it looked a bit like a bonfire in the middle of the stadium but once it’s in its rightful place it’ll be a sight to behold.

Last night I tweeted how proud I was to be British and how it’s so easy to forget the great things that your home country have achieved.  It’s like when tourists come to your city and ask what to do and you can’t give them an answer because you don’t explore where you live.  You think you know it all, but you don’t.  If anything this ceremony made me realise that I don’t know all that much about our history.  I’m aware we haven’t had the best times, but at the same time we’re greater than we allow ourselves to think.  Maybe that is why we are team GB – team GREAT Britain.

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The Voyage – Victoria Square, Birmingham

A free, outdoor dance spectacular finally managed to set sail after having the first night rained off – and the wait, well it was so worth it. The Voyage helping to launch the London 2012 festival is set upon a ship that spans the length of Birmingham’s iconic Town Hall and uses the space of Victoria Square (and its audience) to show the ship setting sail launching its passengers into a new life.  Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and created by dance company Motion House and featuring stunning aerialists and performers from Australian performance company Legs On The Wall it’s a massive treat for the eyes and with performances from the Town Hall’s own gospel choir and a stunning orchestra and soundtrack it’s also a treat for the ears.

Stunning projections that have been carefully mapped onto the side of the ship and the Town Hall to make it feel as though the ship is actually setting sail.  From waves crashing against the hull, to cities forming on the Town Hall you really get the impression that you too are going on the journey.

The narrative of the piece is sometimes lost in the amazing visuals, but it is easy enough to follow along with when you get back on track but every single performance in the huge cast is brilliant.  The cast includes a large number of local youngsters taking part alongside the professionals of Motion House and Legs On The Wall and all looked to be really enjoying themselves in taking part in such a fantastic event.

I could go on about this for a long time – but I’d only start spoiling things and repeating myself.  It is honestly one of the best things I have ever seen and is a real life example of the word spectacular.  The weather might not be looking too great for tonight (Saturday) but keep an eye out on the weather forecast and the website/twitter/facebook of The Voyage (links to follow) for the latest news.  It’s on till tomorrow night ONLY and will not be seen again in Birmingham after that.  It starts at 10pm but last night reached capacity by then so get there early.  And as for the best place to stand? I was in line with the Victoria statue (which probably wished it had turned around to watch it – like the CCTV!) and had a great view, too close and you won’t have the full affect of the projections.  And if it rains? Try to use a hood rather than a brolly.

The Voyage – 5 broken champagne bottles smashed against its hull out of 5!

The Voyage is performed (weather permitting) at 10pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June 2012 in Victoria Square, Birmingham.  It’s FREE!

Website: www.thevoyage.org.uk (Includes MUCH better photos than my grainy iPhone ones!)

Twitter: @TheVoyage2012

Facebook: TheVoyage2012

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The RSC: A Musical 50 Years

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Last night (Sunday 25th September) I found myself in Stratford upon Avon to help the Royal Shakespeare Company celebrate their 50th birthday.  It was a fantastic evening outside the theatre with a rather late sudden appearance of summer making it possible to even enjoy a (soft) drink over looking the river Avon just outside the theatre before the concert celebrating the RSC’s musical successes over the years.

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As you may have gathered, when it comes to the theatre I’m unashamedly more musical than serious play.  I have nothing against a play – infact some have made me have huge emotive journeys while sat in a not very comfortable seat in a theatre – but give me the option I’d choose a musical over a play to see 9 times out of 10.  You may have also gathered that a new musical about to open in London (Matilda) is a bit of an obsession with mine, and the fact that it was being mentioned in the blurb for the concert convinced me that I wanted to go.  Add to that the fact that as I walked towards the steps of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre last night, the Matilda that I first saw (Adrianna Bertola) was sat on the steps.  Me being me got a little bit starstruck and it’s probably a good idea I didn’t have my copy of the CD with me!

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I seriously digressed there and I apologise.  Now, it wasn’t until I saw the Les Miserables 25th anniversary tour last year that I found out that the original production was an RSC production at the Barbican and not really until last night how many musicals the RSC have produced.  Last night we had songs and music from 12 productions from the last 50 years performed by some brilliant performers and supported by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s orchestra.

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What struck me the most about the concert was it’s diversity.  There were a mumber of songs from musicals aimed at families such as Matilda, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Secret Garden as well as more serious ‘grown up’ musicals such as Piaf (a number from which was perfromed by one of the hosts for the evening, Annette McLaughlin).  The audience was also very diverse – with the younger generation being evenly distributed amongst the older.  In my own personal opinion (and this goes for me to an extent too), the RSC struck gold with Matilda and brought the company to a whole new audience.  No longer is it seen as a company that supports GCSE texts, but a company that produces a vast range of theatre and works with all kinds of people.  It’s not lost it’s stuffy image, but has softened greatly.  And now with the Royal Shakespeare Thatre reopening it’s door after a huge renovation (and in parts rebuild) it appears to be becoming even greater.

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It was fantastic for me to see Adrianna Bertola reprise her role as Matilda for a couple of songs from Matilda (Naughty, Pathetic [Rosalie Craig ‘playing’ Miss Honey] and When I Grow Up).  Between the two Matilda’s I saw she was the stronger of the two and it’s a shame she isn’t taking the role to London.  She really kicked the show off, even though she didn’t appear for a few songs, taking command of the space and making the audience fall in love with her.  Ian Hughes gave a number of fantastic and at times comedic performances as did Rebecca Brewer and Rosalie Craig.  We witnessed an absolutely stunning performanc of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables by Earl Carpenter as well as Desmond Barrit leading the Act 1 finale of ‘Master of the House’.  All the excellent soloists (Clare Foster, Chris Jarman, David McGranagham, Helena Raeburn andMichael Xavier complete the list of soloists) were supported by the great Capital Voices choir.

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As well as the music we heard an exhange between the current producers of the latest version of Carrie the Musical and the RSC.  The RSC produced a version of the show and wanted the permission to perform the title song, but due to it’s chequered past the current producers in America are very precious of the source materail… to say the exchange became heated is a slighlty understatement.  As you can guess we weren’t lucky enough to see the title song being performed (but anyone aware of the show’s history may see that as a good thing!).

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It was a fantastic evening and I had a great time.  The new theatre is a fantastic space with lots of hidden gems (which I took a few photos of!) Next time I go I want to have a meal at the roof top restaurant and go up the tower (hope the weather’s as good as it was yesteday!)

So, thank you for letting me in on your birthday celebrations and here’s for the next 50!

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