Some tales will be nostalgic, most will recognise Odysseus’ ordeal with the Cyclops and the coup of the Trojan Horse. Other tales will be less well-known, but the elegance in Fry’s voice lulls the audience into embracing new tales as a child might embrace a bedtime story.
Greek mythology is quite entrenched within our culture today, and one could say the same about Stephen Fry; a theatre legend with one of the most remarkable capacities for storytelling seen this century. Winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award at the Fringe in 1981, Fry has come to be a part of The Edinburgh International Festival, a stone’s throw away from the venues of his early comedic performances. Fry cites Hercules’ ‘ability to endure’ as the ‘greatest ability of all’, and the same can be said for the storyteller himself.
In his show, Mythos: Men, adapted from his novel of the same name, he holds a rapt audience from the moment he runs onto the stage and proceeds to lie down. In the crowded Greek mythology market, Fry’s success is his narrative pace, peppered with dry idiosyncrasies to punctuate the evening. The typical Fry drollery comes out in a game of ‘Mythical Pursuit’, pre-royalty Paris, a farmhand with a Somerset lilt, and the discovery that Thetis was quite disposed with burning her children to make them immortal.
Though the title is Mythos: Men, the orbital point of many of these tales is that they revolve around women. Nobody may know of Lada’s fate, but we are shown her immortality in art.
The beauty of Fry’s take on myths and men is its constructed fluidity; the Aeneas is far too intricate to be chronicled in one show, but Fry breaks it down with flashes of imagery and quirky one-liners to truly make the audience believe in these characters. They are characters after all, and Fry frames them as such, breaking off from the reverie of mythology to discuss the origin of the Ancient Greek noun ‘logos’. He profusely refutes the notion that these stories are ‘made-up’, and instead celebrates the curiosity the Ancient Greeks had for the natural world.
With a night of storytelling that comes up just shy of three hours, anybody who goes to experience the Mythos Trilogy will be hard-pressed not to shed a tear as the utility of the Greek Gods comes to an end as the evening does.
Mythos: A Trilogy is on at Festival Theatre
Until 25th August
Book tickets here
Image: David Cooper