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When sport meets art
We’re well and truly stuck into Olympic season now, with barely a week left to go on the games before a quick recess, then straight back into the Paralympics.
But while the sporting drama unfolds in the East End, a different type of drama continues in the West – and not just on the stage. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt defending against accusations of reduced footfall last week was a sour point, but the fact that the recently-started Edinburgh Fringe seems to be doing fine despite many technical staff being poached by the games is clearly a boon! And that’s before we even mention the dazzling theatricality of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony – spectacular, but also an insightful display of British cultural capital, capital that is the lifeblood of the West End.
The general consensus for London theatre during the Olympics has been to carry on as if the Olympics weren’t happening at all, but naturally there have been a few exceptions. The appearance of some of the members of the cast of War Horse at the Olympic Park during the equestrian events was a notable one – and after appearing on the roof of the National Theatre during the jubilee it looks like the puppeteers are making a pleasing habit of leaving the confines of the New London.
Other theatres have engaged a little more directly with the Olympics, however, with shows that pay tribute to the drama of sport. Chariots of Fire, a stage adaptation of the award-winning 1981 film of the same name, tells the story of two runners in the 1924 Olympics who must overcome prejudice and adversity to climb to victory. It’s currently right at home at the Gielgud Theatre after transferring from the off-West End Hampstead, and is currently running – pun absolutely intended – right past the Olympics and straight on ‘til November 10th. It’s done very well with the reviewers too, hitting a solid four stars across the board.
The Arts Theatre has a similar aim with its staging of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s The Complete History of Sports (abridged). As a madcap Pythonesque storm of sport-related humour it’s worlds away from Chariots of Fire, but is certainly looking to fill a similar niche. The show is a two-hour runthrough of every sport every played by humans ever, along with a sprinkle of topical 2012 laughs to help it all go down.
The games have sought to connect with the arts world with the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, and this includes events, workshops and funded projects up and down the country. With the best part of a month to go there’s sure to be something to get involved with wherever you are. Down in the West End, however, the Criterion Theatre (currently home to The 39 Steps) has been running a daily event called Playing the Games. Aside from figures from the best of British comedy, sport, acting and writing coming together for lunchtime talks, two sport-related plays, Taking Part and After the Party, have been running daily at 2.30pm and 4.15pm. The first is about a Congolese security guard turned swimmer, the second about two down-on-their-luck DJs who need to turn things around by cashing in on the Olympics. Another Cultural Olympiad event to look out for is a collaboration between the Olympic Museum and the Royal Opera House called The Olympic Journey, a fascinating exhibit with items from the ancient games right up until modern times. There’s only a few days of both events left, but it’s definitely worth a look-in if you have an afternoon free.
Deal of the week
As a nod to all the theatres daring to do something a bit different and engage with the games, we’re offering 5% off packages to see Chariots of Fire or The Complete World of Sports (abridged) from now until the end of August. Just book one of the shows on the website, then at the payment page enter SPORTBLOG to claim your 5%! Wonderful!