So it’s 2012. The year London becomes a hub of Olympic fervour, swollen with visitors keen to get a glimpse of the long-awaited Games. Given the commotion, you might think the Games is the last event on Earth. But you’d be a fool to believe it. There is a robust array of events to otherwise catch your attention.
Inspired by, and in spite of, the Olympics, the alternatives span as far as Michael Phelps’s medal collection.
A starter for ten, the Queen is throwing a party for her Diamond Jubilee in June, and we can expect to be swept up in a flurry of royal fever, with street parties, tickertape and ceremonial fly-bys. Plus, there is a bumper long weekend in it for us, which is more than a reason to cheer.
The scale of things to come is immense. London & Partners, the capital’s official promotional body, even urges us to put off travel plans.
“It’s going to be an incredible year to be in London,” CEO Gordon Innes says. “Not to be missed is the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy, and at the Barbican, Juliette Binoche and Cate Blanchett will be taking part in its 30th anniversary celebrations. These are world class events, with stars of the screen coming to our stages. There will be no better place to be.”
It’s also a cracking year for comedy – notwithstanding embarrassed laughs at Boris Johnson’s dishevelled figure, a la the Beijing Olympics.
Big on the list is Frankie Boyle, hanging up his tour boots – or so he says – with Last Days of Sodom, at the Hammersmith Apollo in November.
However, it’s Adam Riches, with his Edinburgh Comedy Award-winning show, Bring Me The Head Of Adam Riches, that kicks off the year’s major comedic proceedings.
Riches brings to the Soho Theatre anarchic stagecraft and live audience participation that teeters on physical abuse. Indeed, the sheer exertion of his hapless subjects are of an Olympic scale, with Riches’ alter-egos, Spanish swingball champ Pedro Azul, and game hunter, O’Hara, gelling the mix.
“I’ve been completely shocked by how willing audience members are to get involved. If we wanted an unofficial Olympics, the way my audiences are going, they’d have started their own competition – and not only that, they’d have done better,” Riches says.
Based on the antics of his seemingly fearless audience members, he suggests some rather disturbing events.
“In my shows we do lizard racing, so we’d have an event where we get competitors to lie on their stomachs on a skateboard and race across a stage – that would be a great event. Then, we could do … erm, vomiting into each other’s mouths. Though that might be a late-night event, and maybe just a one-off, too. I wouldn’t want to be in the heats for that one.”
Technicolour yawns aside, Riches is confident of an Olympics springboard effect in London.
“There’ll be loads of people here with money in their pockets, time on their hands and entertainment on their minds, so I expect a good spirit about the city, and that will reflect in ‘sold out’ boards across the land.”