What does it take to get a job performing at the Olympic closing ceremonies?
Oliver Clayton auditioned to be a performer in the Olympic Closing Ceromonies in London this summer. He made the cut, so look out for him dancing to Danny Boyle’s choreography (apparently in a routine which features septuagenarians)
If I told you my journey to becoming an Olympic Ceremonies performer began with a patriotic epiphany whilst drinking tea and gazing teary-eyed at a Union Jack blowing in the wind, I would be lying. It was the last week of term before Christmas holidays and I was well and truly adrift in the depths of procrastination. Having exhausted 4OD’s back catalogue of Peep Show I found myself locked in a conflict between Facebook poking a girl I had briefly met on holiday three years ago and attempting to learn by heart the lyrics to The Sugar Hill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’. It was in this sorry state that I spotted an online link advertising auditions to become a performer in one of the Olympic Ceremonies. My imagination ran riot as I began to envisage fantastical scenes of me, Boris Johnson and the Queen in matching athletic short shorts and headbands, high-fiving, before lighting the Olympic flame hand in hand. I was curious and decided to investigate further. The advert explained that the ceremonies themselves are expected to accumulate viewing figures in the billions and are being directed by Danny Boyle, of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire fame. Danny has decided on an ‘Isles of Wonder’ theme, based on a quote from The Tempest, showcasing the best of British culture. I began to feel some kind of awe and excitement growing deep inside me but whether it was patriotic pride or simply the prospect of airing my short shorts in front of such a large audience I will never know. I filled out the lengthy application forms and sent them off expecting that to be the last of it.
A month passed and I had forgotten about the entire thing when an email popped up in my inbox inviting me to travel down to a Production Studio in East London for an audition in February. Now that my initial farfetched fantasy was turning into some kind of reality I began to seriously consider what I would actually be doing as a performer in the Ceremonies. I decided to check out some videos of the Beijing ones to get an idea of what it might look like and was greeted with a video of 2008 (just ‘cos they can) Chinese guys hitting drums with neon sticks flawlessly in sync; safe to say it’s probably the most awe-inspiring, bad-ass thing I have ever seen. Despite the fact that the British equivalent would be David Beckham (the go-to national hero) and about 12 school kids running around in a circle, frantically shaking tambourines, I was still in awe at the potential immensity of the spectacle and decided to book my ticket to London there and then.
It was a dreary February morning when I arrived at the East London studios, tired from the overnight bus down. I took my place in the queue outside the studios, hoisted up my short shorts and tentatively glanced around at my fellow competitors. I was immediately struck by the range of people auditioning; from anorak-clad middle-aged blokes to fake-eyelash wielding dancers and senior citizens wearing pyjama bottoms and worryingly discoloured tank tops. We were ushered secretively through security into a large, warehouse type building where we were measured up for potential costumes by a group of friendly, pink t-shirt clad Olympic employees. Despite having undertaken what must have been thousands of inner thigh measurements they were still incredibly upbeat and directed us through to the main room of the warehouse where we were told to sit in allotted positions and await further instructions. The auditions themselves, directed by a flamboyant American, consisted of a range of mass choreography and dance routines based around a grid system on the floor. We would be given a destination in the room based on a personal detail (star sign, birthday etc) which we had to move to amidst the chaos of 200 people doing the same; many an old lady was body-checked out the way as I strutted through the crowd on my path to Olympic fame. After this a judge took place in the centre of the room with a clipboard and all 200 of us were instructed to ‘Congo-line’ around her to the beat of the music which led me to question not only how does one ‘Congo-line’ well, but what kind of 90s disco themed ceremony was Danny Boyle planning? After performing one last dance based around the morning routine, this time in groups of 10, we were sent on our way and told we’d receive an email in the next 24 hours.
Despite the oddness of the audition I found myself compulsively refreshing my inbox the following morning desperate for news of my progress. My dancing had been almost perfectly out of sync, an impressive feat in itself, but I was sure my short shorts would carry me through. Lo and behold the email arrived inviting me to a call back audition a few days later. This one, I was informed, would be the final one and was to be a role specific audition. On my arrival at these second auditions, held at the same venue, I looked around at my fellow hopefuls and soon realised that in this role specific audition, my particular group clearly wasn’t being considered for any kind of impressive dance routine, or indeed any manner of physically demanding routine at all. Surrounding me was a group of elderly men (we’re talking 70+ year olds) who were all super enthusiastic but old nonetheless. This time we were given a slightly more elaborate dance sequence based around a chair (not a striptease…I think) to the sound of a melee of British pop classics. It was a heart warming sight watching all these old fellas jerking around to the music; some of them moving to the actual rhythm, others to the rhythm of their own faltering heartbeats, poor sods.
We performed this in groups of 5, this time under the beady eyes of 3 judges and a video camera. Afterwards we were sent on our way so I bade farewell to my newly acquired pensioner friends and caught the bus back up to Edinburgh. My initial fantasy was much the same, except in my imaginary dance sequence the Queen had been replaced by an army of geriatrics, nevertheless I was still enthusiastic. Months passed without hearing anything and I had just about given up hope when last week an email popped up offering me a place as a dancer/performer in the Closing Ceremony. There will be almost 15 rehearsals starting in May and a free Oyster travel card is thrown in for free. I was ecstatic and am ironing my short shorts as I write.