Stephen Fry has taken on this yearâ€™s marathon Festival project, bringing us his version of the myths and legends of Ancient Greece.
Over the course of four days he has divided his tales into three epic Mythos plays – Gods, Heroes and Men, each lasting approximately two and a half hours. Thatâ€™s seven and a half hours of memorised script, for he alone shoulders the Herculean task of being on stage recounting the tales.
Itâ€™s all very Jackanory – Fry in a comfortable chair, mellifluous voice, anecdotal asides and lots of little jokes.
In Gods he takes us from primordial chaos to the sunrise of the gods, in Heroes he recounts the tales of Perseus, Heracles and Theseus, and in Men we are guided through the Trojan war and the long travails of Odysseus. Itâ€™s an everyday story of Olympian folk – lots of derring-do and gruesome deaths with little diversions here and there backtracking the stories and throwing in modern day references.
Thereâ€™s a Trivial Pursuits section where an audience member chooses a colour and we get a little background lesson in general Greek culture. Thereâ€™s Ask The Oracle where Fry invites the audience to email him questions in the interval.
With an ever changing backdrop of Greek beaches and temples, blue skies and lapping waves, it really is the most delightful of bedtime stories. But underneath it all we learn a lot about the Greeks, and can only admire Fry for his prodigious knowledge, his boundless enthusiasm, and his amazing memory. It is quite obviously for him a labour of love, and for us a delight to listen to.
Festival Theatre until August 25th.