Stephen Fry: Gods – reprise

Not so long ago, I walked into the packed foyer of Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre.  Surrounded by throngs of people, I jostled my way through to the bar and toilets. 

I took my seat in the full auditorium, rubbing shoulders with complete unknowns.  They appeared oblivious of their proximity to everyone else.  They hardly saw me, nor I them.  I have always depended on the blindness of strangers.

No one was masked.  Not a covered face in sight.  They were all breathing, talking, coughing, sniffing, sneezing and laughing freely.

‘Nobody has the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre’.  The classic illustration of the limits of individual freedom.  Now, nobody has the right to enter a crowded theatre in the first place!

Not long ago, yet it feels like a million years.

This is a reprise of a blog about that visit.  As with other reprised posts, it allows for the readers and followers that STAGE LEFT has picked up since, plus those who may have missed it first time round.

The benefits of a classical education – Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), Die Hard

I never really ‘got’ Greek mythology.  Though I knew odd stories and characters from classical plays and fables, it always remained a fog.

How to make sense of its epic chronicle of gods, humans, legends and symbolisms explaining the world and its creation?

How to get the full picture – enjoy it, even? 

Having listened – pleasurably, via Audible – through 30 hours of Stephen Fry reading his own version of the Greek myths – I’ve become familiar with the territory at least (Chaos, the Cosmos, Mount Olympus etc).

It’s the amazing stories and the figures, immortal and mortal, that open up this world, made daylight by Fry’s clever adaptation from a myriad of original sources.

That, and his regular detours decoding the language links between the Greek myths and our culture today, via the Greek derivations we still use.

This live theatre version has the man himself on stage throughout.  As he ambled on, suppressing ecstatic applause, somebody started a chorus of Happy Birthday, dear Stephen.   62 today!

The pleasure remains in the fantastic stories, told in his mellifluous tones.  The derivation of that word, by the way, is honey.  Fry includes the tale of Zeus, Melissa the bee and the nectar for the gods’ wedding as just one example of how the ancient Greek stories, ideas and language still connect to us so vividly today.

In the book and audio versions, he gives a continual flow of events, making connections between the characters and what they get up to. 

On stage, it’s more a selection of individual stories – cracking yarns with sex, bloodshed, torture, fantastical births, deaths and metamorphoses.

Uranos’s sperm spilling from his severed genitalia into the sea to give birth to Aphrodite; Kronos vomiting up his swallowed children; Zeus’s skull being axed open to give birth to Athena and the final image of an eagle flying towards us, ready to gouge out Prometheus’s liver.  These and other rich episodes told in all their gory.

The show I saw is just the first – Gods – of the trilogy.  He’s also touring Heroes and Men.  You might be able to catch some, or even all, of them over the next few weeks in Birmingham, London, Oxford and Gateshead. 

Me, I’ll wait for Troy – the third part yet to be published, so I’ll have another 15 hours or so on the headphones.  A pleasure to come.

by Paul BassettGlasgow, August 2020.

Comments and feedback also welcome via e mail:

2 thoughts on “Stephen Fry: Gods – reprise

  1. Dear Paul (and April!)Such a long time since we last spoke/met.Can you send me your actual email.address as my phone seems to have removed it?Copying April on this as I seem to have an email that is good.My Samsung seems to routinely remove contacts I haven’t used for a while. Infuriating.I would love to have a WhatsApp or phone catch up sometime but think of you both fondly and often…. covid does make things different.All is well in Saint-Omer and I’m sure Giles updates you a little. I miss seeing him so much – since March 19th. When will it end?Most important reason for this email is to exhort you to pick up a.copy of today’s FT.A superbly written succinct Politics opinion piece by Philip Stephens entitled: Johnson’s Brexit plan will break the UK union.I now subscribe to the FT daily for a serious balanced view of the world and it is I think significant, given that it has always seemed in principle to be sceptical of independence, that over the last month there has scarcely been a day without a letter or a comment and none  negative. This today tops them all.I think you’ll enjoy. Usually a strict paywall but often you can get one piece free if you just stick the title and the author and FT in the browser…Sending much love to you both andAwra best fer noo!Peter+33 7 58 32 03 51  (WhatsApp number!)+44.7717 022 772  (still seems as local call!?)Sent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


    1. Dear Peter, Thanks so much for that. April has replied too so hope you got the e mail addresses. I had seen about the FT article as it happens but you spurred me to actually read it! Yes, it would be great to link up, if only virtually. God knows when for real… We were planning a London trip in a couple of weeks, hoping to see Giles. But awaiting Nicola and Boris to pronounce today on renewed lockdown guidelines, so we’ll see. Hear you’re doing well in St Omer – trust the move into the property world goes well. A bientot, Love Paul & April


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