Plunging into the Cultural Olympiad
The Olympics is kicking off in London in a month’s time, and we are starting to gear up in Eagle Street – which mainly means considering alternative ways to get to work! Despite all the delightfully British grumbling over cost, design, architecture, website crashes and transport, I am rather pleased to see the whole event coming together. Arranging a party leaves me prostrate for a week, the thought of arranging the Olympics fills me with a certain kind of awe. Not content with organising 36 sports with 14,000 athletes from 205 countries, London 2012 also includes a Cultural Olympiad of over 12,000 events.
This is rather more my thing than sport. Although to be honest, the event I am most excited about is ‘Sacrilege’, a bouncy castle version of Stonehenge. I was also quite interested in a ‘What you Will’ performance in which 50 actors will fall into conversation with passers-by and give a Shakespeare speech. I can’t really hang around street corners, though, in the hope that a handsome young man will approach me to say ‘nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered’. Knowing my luck, I’d get Timon of Athens spitting insults at me – appropriately Olympic if one thinks about it.
In fact, despite the trend for theatrical pop ups and street performance, tonight I am going to a Cultural Olympiad event comfortably seated in a theatre. Handspring Puppet Company (famous for the puppets in the National Theatre production of War Horse) is performing a show based around Ted Hughes’s Crow poems. These are – for my money – a better reflection of British poetic talent than the rather hastily knocked up musings on legacy and the East End that I’ve read from current poets.
Despite occasional bursts of cynicism, I really want to go to many of the events being put on. There’s The Owl and the Pussycat being performed along London’s canals in a production devised by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. Due to my Patrick O’Brian obsession, I’m even secretly looking forward to the performance of ‘All the Bells’ in which all church bells and ships bells in the Royal Navy will be rung on 27th July.
If the thought of all this culture horrifies you, I think an extended holiday over the summer may be the only answer. It will probably be far easier to simply watch the sporting events on TV, without worrying about an actor popping up to quote Shakespeare to you as you try to make your way through the crowds in London.