Photograph of Ian McKellen as Prospero at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games


The magic and spectacle of The Tempest was captured in the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games, where Ian McKellen played Prospero.

In his discussion of The Tempest, Gordon McMullan describes the pivotal role of the play in the ceremonies for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the summer of 2012:

The Olympic ceremony began with the ringing of a bell inscribed with Caliban’s line from Act 3, Scene 2, ‘Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises’ and, a little later, Kenneth Branagh spoke this line twice before intoning the rest of Caliban’s speech, giving the words full emotional weight, with the evocative ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s ‘Enigma’ Variations swelling behind him.

The Tempest was also woven through the Paralympic opening ceremony, co-directed by Jenny Sealey, artistic director of disability theatre company Graeae, this time with a disabled actress in a wheelchair, Nicola Miles-Wildin, playing Miranda. She was seen off on her ‘journey of discovery’ by Sir Ian McKellen as a benign Prospero, and provided ‘the eyes through which the 65,000-strong audience in the stadium and millions more on television saw the show’. Later in the sequence, as Paralympian athletes flew over the audience’s heads, Miles-Wildin spoke Miranda’s speech from Act 5:

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world
That has such people in’t!

This extract is from Gordon McMullan’s chapter entitled ‘“Into something rich and strange”: The Tempest at the Blackfriars Playhouse, c. 1610–11’ in Shakespeare in Ten Acts (London: The British Library, 2016), p. 61.

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British actor Ian McKellen (L) gazes through a giant telescope in the opening ceremony Photograph of Ian McKellen as Prospero in the opening ceremony of the 2012 paralympicsthe London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in east London on August 29, 2012
29 August 2012
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Leon Neal
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