When Jenny Sealey the director of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony was interviewed recently, she said: “This is our chance not to be hidden anymore. And a chance to be naughty." Last night in east London she lived up to her word, and then some.
From Stephen Hawking’s narration to Ian McKellen’s Prospero leading Miranda on a magical journey of self-discovery, from an apple-based Sir Isaac Newton tribute to Ian Drury’s banned Spasticus Autisicus, from books transformed into seagulls to a giant upside down umbrella to the Higgs Bosom particle the array of unforgettable imagery was almost overwhelming.
Where Danny Boyle chose to tell the story of this country through selected breakthroughs, Jenny Sealey focussed on science, knowledge and self-improvement. It could have been toe-curlingly worthy but it’s testament to her creative team that it was instead uplifting and massively impressive.
Complex scientific ideas and literary allusions were handled with amazing (sometimes childlike) imagination and visual dexterity – message and spectacle worked in concert. It was a lesson in how to handle ideas that have become trite in their retelling with verve and wit and the set pieces from a giant replica of Marc Quinn’s famous sculpture of Alison Lapper to the relighting of Heatherwick’s magnificent cauldron hung together with more visual cohesion than the Olympics ceremony managed.
But large-scale wow-factor relies also on the minute details and on the opening ceremony blog you can see the craftsmanship, care and attention that went into props and costumes.
For my money this bested Boyle’s bonkers brilliance – even Beverley Knight singing I Am What I Am as a finale was unexpectedly perfectly-judged. An epic evening in various respects.