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Olympian Storyteller


Paulette Randall is an influential figure in the arts. As Danny Boyle’s right-hand woman, she helped to create the spectacular London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Cynthia Lawrence talks to the artistic director who has changed the face of British theatre


A


ſter years of preparation, months of build up and heightened expectation, London’s big moment had finally arrived. Te opening


ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics was billed to be an extravaganza. Led by the Oscar-winning director, Danny Boyle and costing an astonishing £27million, the Olympic Stadium was transformed on a scale of epic proportions. Whilst the spectacular scenes unfolded for all to enjoy, one woman was watching from behind the scenes, filled with trepidation. “Typical of people like me. You sit there looking for the little things that could go wrong and the things that go right just ticks that box. It was the one chance we


HAVEBEENANY WINDRUSH WITHOUTYOUBEINGTHERE’.


A LOTOF PEOPLE HAVE SAID TO ME, ‘THEREWOULDN’T


had to get it right.” But Paulette Randall, the associate director of the ceremony, needn’t have worried. As one of the leading theatre directors in


Britain, Paulette holds quite an impressive resume. She is a BAFTA Awards nominee, writer, director, and producer. Her work includes several plays by the celebrated August Wilson, she founded the Teatre of Black Women, is former artistic director of the Talawa Teatre Company and chaired the board of the Clean Break Teatre Company. It isn’t any wonder then, that she was personally hand-picked by Boyle to create one of the greatest, theatrical events London has ever seen. “I’ve known Danny for about


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20 years, in fact, he was influential in getting me into directing,” she begins, “I got a phone call from him asking if I could come in for a chat about what he was doing and I said ‘yes’. Tere was no job so to speak, he just said, ‘I’m going to need some help!’ We were literally sat around a table sharing ideas, arguing, agreeing, challenging. Te team worked in a very collective way.” Consequently, the ceremony became a


talking point around the globe, receiving praise (and a few criticisms) for its extraordinary vision of British history, triumphs and the multicultural face of the country. Two of the leading characters in the production were of African/African Caribbean heritage – dancers Jasmine Breinburg and Henrique Costan, who played young lovers Frankie and June. While the column inches were seemingly devoted to Danny Boyle, there is no denying that without Paulette, the black British experience may not have been so successfully executed. “A lot of people have said to me, ‘there wouldn’t have been any Windrush without you being there’. Tat might be true, but it’s not that I suggested to put the Windrush in,” says Paulette, “we were all talking about the important values in our lives and the things that resonate. Tat was one of mine and I think it’s important to our country. Of course, me being at that meeting had a crucial part in it because just being in a room was sometimes enough to remind people of our history.” With a remarkable career spanning over


25 years, it is amusing to think that it all began as a result of a £5 wager. As a teenager, she had been working on a market stall in Brixton unsure about what to do with her life. Tat was until a friend showed her an advert for a community theatre arts course at Rose


Interview


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