Entertainment & Arts

London 2012: How Shakespeare's Tempest shapes the ceremonies

Helen Mirren in The Tempest
Helen Mirren stars in the film version of The Tempest in 2010

Danny Boyle has revealed that Shakespeare will go to the Olympic Games - with ceremonies heavily inspired by the playwright's work The Tempest.

Opening ceremonies artistic director Boyle came up with the theme "Isles of Wonder" after gaining inspiration from Caliban's speech in The Tempest which opens with the line: "Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises."

Boyle told the BBC that the speech will be inscribed on a 27-tonne bell which will be rung in the Olympic Stadium to reflect the start of the Games.

"The speech is about the wondrous beauty of the island and his deep, deep affection and devotion to it. And that's what we felt in preparing the show," he said.

Kim Gavin, artistic director for the Paralympic closing ceremony was also inspired by the quote.

The play

So what is so significant about the play and more importantly the speech?

The play is set on a remote island where an exiled Duke, Prospero, plots to restore his daughter the Princess Miranda to her rightful place in Milan.

The Tempest - a storm - brings to the island Prospero's usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso.

There is a series of revelations and the play tells the tale of Prospero's quest to re-establish justice.

But it is a speech by Prospero's slave Caliban which really forms the central theme of the London 2012 ceremonies.

"It's Shakespeare's final play, it's one of his greatest plays, one of his most loved plays and has the most beautiful language of all his plays," said the Royal Shakespeare Company's David Farr.

"It's one of the most well-known speeches but quite clearly and very creatively they are punning on the word isles. I think it's as simple as that.

"I think it's a lovely idea - it doesn't need to be more complicated than that."

'Island beauty'

Mr Farr will direct a production of The Tempest as part of the Cultural Olympiad's World Shakespeare Festival. He explained why it is such a significant speech for him.

"It's a stunning speech about the beauty of an island's voice.

"The brilliance is that it's delivered by the outsider Caliban who seems to have a better understanding of the island's beauty than the man who rules it.

"What matters is that the speech shows the greatest sensitivity to the island, its music and voices."

Boyle made the announcements with six months to go until the opening ceremony, the same day the bell - which will have Caliban's speech inscribed - was being cast.

Boyle said he hoped the bell made by the Whitechapel Bell Foundry would remain at the Olympic Park for future generations.

The Tempest will be performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre , Stratford-Upon-Avon from March until May, and again from July to October. There will also be a stint at The Roundhouse , London in June and July.

It will also be put on in Bangla in early May as part of the Globe to Globe section of the World Shakespeare Festival at the Globe Theatre in London.

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