There’s a point in everyone’s life where they’re infatuated with one of a few things: something like dinosaurs, pirates, or Greek myths.
For English actor, technophile, and raconteur Stephen Fry, the Greek myths were an obsession which he’s clung to through his life, leading him to create a monologue trilogy about the classic stories. He’s currently presenting them at Ontario’s Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake.
The three plays (Gods, Heroes, and Men) tell three sets of the classic tales. Gods is about the parricidal cycle of the Titans and Gods, Heroes is about the heroic figures of Hercules, Perseus, and Theseus, and Men recounts stories from the the Aeneid and Odyssey of the Trojan War and Ulysses journey home.
The stage is bare, with a series of panels wrapping around it and a throne sitting on it which can sink into the stage at the end of a scene or rise high above it. The panels can have scenes and images projected upon them as the only sets of the show.
Fry is the only soul on the stage, and in each play he swings between a variety of characters and a narrator’s role. Not perfectly, mind you; some Gods shift accents during scenes (and he’ll remark on it, one time saying “I don’t think they were supposed to be from the North”).
But his performances are expressive. When Cronus, under the effect of a purgative, regurgitates his deity children, the sounds he makes are very evocative.
During each show, Fry will pause and allow the audience to play Mythical Pursuit, allowing a random audience member to pick one of the categories that flash on the screens behind him. He’ll discuss history, technology, and how the myths affected him.
Regardless of your familiarity with the myths, this is an enjoyable experience. Fry’s enthusiasm for his subject matter is contagious, his natural showmanship is great, and he gives the iconic tales of Men and Gods a great presentation.
The Mythos Cycle is showing at the Shaw Festival until July 15, 2018.