Journalist Laura Porter tells us exactly how it felt to perform to an audience of billions for Danny Boyle’s Olympic Opening Ceremony after months of challenging rehearsals and secrecy.
Did you see it? I hope so! I was in the Olympics Opening Ceremony! What an incredible thing to say I was part of. Danny Boyle is a creative genius, in my opinion. The child I performed with told me when he is a grandfather he’ll tell his grandchildren what an amazing show he was in on 27 July 2012. That’s an impressive thing for an eight year old to say.
I entered from near the ‘Glastonbury Tor’ pushing a bed with a young boy tucked in, holding on tight as my partner and I ran up the slope and got into formation to create G.O.S.H. and the face representing Great Ormond Street Hospital. A heartbeat signalled the start of our performance and then the haunting Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield rang out in the Olympic Stadium. I can now share with you that I was a nurse in the section celebrating the National Health Service (NHS) – see this BBC video.
While ‘Industrial Revolution’ was a historical tale, ours was an emotional story with a children’s nightmare full of children’s storybook characters: Captain Hook from Peter Pan, Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland and the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The nurses were changed into zombies by Dementors from the Harry Potter stories and Voldemort sprang up higher than the Stadium. Thankfully, all worked out well when a gang of Mary Poppins arrived to save the day and we danced again once the spell was broken.
The child I performed with told me when he is a grandfather he’ll tell his grandchildren what an amazing show he was in.
Our section was followed by a tribute to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, with a great soundtrack including Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers which pretty much summed up the show but with a pride in British eccentricity.
We had all been warned to expect a feeling of loss in the days after the show but strangely I felt it on the day as we had performed two dress rehearsals with large audiences that week and I felt it was already over. Thankfully, the happy spirit kicked back in when we got to the Olympic Stadium and we danced backstage while waiting for our turn.
As we left the Stadium we were confronted by all the athletes waiting for the Parade to start and Usain Bolt kept the girls happy signing programmes.
We got to keep our costumes so 1940s style nurses were spotted out in London all throughout the night. We had spent so much time together over the last few months – often more than with our family. Saying goodbye was hard and many went out to party for the night as the adrenalin just doesn’t stop that quickly after performing in front of billions of people worldwide. Everyone we passed wanted their photo taken with us. We must have been quite a sight as we all looked alike with our meticulous hair and makeup, like some sort of nurse clones.
Many of the volunteer cast have reported that feeling of loss since the show but all have been immensely proud to be involved in the biggest live show in the world. Some said it was like the last day of school when we had shared something so special that no-one outside of our ‘Olympic family’ could really understand, and it’s true, we needed each other to make it happen. After three months of dedicating our lives to the Olympics Opening Ceremony and not telling anyone what we were doing, we also now have friends for life who we know can always keep a secret when needed.
You can follow Laura at @AboutLondon.