And so the Olympics comes to and end with a fun packed closing ceremony featuring waves of surprises and a very British mixture of the sublime and the ridiculous. Tim Spall, again appearing as Churchill, nonsensically speaking Caliban's lines from atop a newsprint decked Big Ben, whilst Julian Lloyd-Webber played the cello. Russell Brand out of key as Willy Wonka, Fat Boy Slim emerging from an inflatable octopus. Eccentric and meaningless stuff.
In keeping with the style over substance theme the athletes were corralled into trivial pursuit shaped wedges so that a complicated, cat walk union flag stage could be made in the centre of the stadium. A global TV audience marvelled at the coherence stage management, but apart from the moment when The Spice Girls united the crowd with childhood memories of Zig-a-zig-ah, the athletes looked lost, disconnected and, trapped in their zones, unsure of where the focus of the show should be.
The tight marshaling and designation seemed to me to be the real metaphor for modern Britain, where the rebellious conditions that broke appeasement, created a magical chocolate factory and championed surrealism, have long since disappeared in clouds of conformity and regulation. The legacy runs deep, the identity cards we've been asked to wear during St Mary's time as a training camp, are to be kept in place. Ours is an odd culture, enthralled both to rules and to those who get away with breaking them.
There is a sense of empowerment engendered by the games that I hope will lead to some positive investment in Schools and clubs. The fact remains that 40% of Britain's Gold medallists were educated in private schools, where resources and facilities are plentiful. It's not defeatist to suggest that confidence and entitlement develops much faster when the conditions are right, but it is offensive for those from privileged backgrounds, to suggest that all that is needed is a change of attitude amongst those who are forced to structure their provision around a football and two rusty sets of goalposts. World class resources and investment promote world class athletes. It's underinvestment, not working class conservatism that leads to squabbles and tribalism.
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.