Having seen RocknRolla, Guy Ritchie's latest film, I have a suggestion as to how we might make use in the years following 2012 of the Olympic Park that's being built in Stratford: it could be turned into a theme park called Ritchieland that celebrates the East End's colourful heritage of lovable cockney villains.
In RocknRolla there is a den of iniquity where various small-time crooks meet to fence stolen goods and gamble away their ill-gotten gains. I see no reason why this couldn't be recreated for the benefit of American tourists who want to catch a glimpse of the "real" London.
There could be another area called "up West" where gawping tourists could see how the other half lives – according to Ritchie (pictured), at least. "Up West" would recreate a "typical" upper-class party at which a bunch of inebriated toffs could be seen chasing tarts around in their knickers, blowing on toy trumpets and shouting "tally ho". After 9pm, the curious could enter a room called "A Bit of Posh", where they could see a treacherous siren, dressed in Agent Provocateur, hoping to lure wide boys to their doom.
Needless to say, there would be no representatives of the middle class in Ritchieland. The wily director has extinguished all traces of the bourgeoisie in his London, conforming to the widely held overseas belief that Britain is still an Upstairs Downstairs world where you are either a toff or a villain.
Ritchieland tours would be conducted by "authentic" local characters talking entirely in Ritchiespeak, an exaggerated version of Arthur Daley's patter in Minder. Thus, a five-year prison sentence would be "a five stretch", £2,000 "two large", and strippers "Jack the Rippers".
Admittedly, the portrait of London's criminal underworld that emerges in Ritchie's gangster pictures – Lock, Stock..., Snatch and now RocknRolla – is a work of complete fiction, the product of the overactive imagination of an ex-public schoolboy suffering from a bad case of nostalgie de la boue. In a sense, though, this makes it ideal raw material for a theme park. Ritchieland will be an East End Disneyland, a simulacrum that seems "real" by conforming to stereotypes, rather than because it has any connection with reality. I have every confidence that once it is up and running, Guy will pocket "a hundred large" every week.
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