Theatre critic's view: Sir Ian McKellen improvises as Miranda floats past during the Paralympics opening ceremony


Ian McKellen stepped forward as Prospero after Rihanna's shower power and a tempest of electric light rain that would make up for all that dryness in the warm-up Olympics.

But he'd lost his script, so he improvised a modern imprecation, telling his daughter, Miranda, floating by in a flying wheelchair, to "go out into the world…and shine your light on to the beautiful diversity of humanity".

It was literate, but it wasn't Shakespeare. And – sorry to be a party-pooper at the friendly games – it was, well, a bit banal.

Sir Ian remained in long shot and didn't act remotely sonorous, which was something. Perhaps he was in a sulk: Prospero's lines had been nicked, after all, at last month's opening ceremony by Ken Branagh.

Miranda's brave new world was a place where she would take the journey for all of us and set us free, whereas Prospero would stay where he was; he's only freed by our indulgence at the end of the play.

Perhaps Sir Ian – who coincidentally played the first dramatic role broadcast on Channel 4, and a disabled one at that, in a film called Walter – made a point in playing only a walk-on part.

The leading players on this occasion are those who can't always walk. "For those who can, please stand for the National Anthem," asked the announcer.

Stephen Hawking backed up Sir Ian by commanding Miranda to "be curious".

She looked gobsmacked by the huge model representations of Isaac Newton's apple, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a shivering, coloured glass and brolly tribute to the Higgs particle.