The heavens opened in biblical fashion just before the Tuesday matinee of the second part of Stephen Fry’s epic solo retelling of Greek legend. If this was a sign that the Gods laid bare in the first part weren’t too happy with Fry bringing things back down to Earth with its second and third, Fry held court regardless as the politest of Oracles.
With a tad more dry ice than its predecessor, Heroes is more of a boy’s own adventure, pitting regional-accented macho men against all manner of scary monsters and super creeps.
So, from a long-suffering Hera having breakfast with Zeus in Olympus, we meet an Alan Bennett styled Perseus, who on his wanderings gets all tied up with a Welsh Andromeda, while a nice but dim Heracles is just one more result of Zeus’ promiscuous proclivities, which here sound more like something out of a 1970s very British sex comedy.
With Theseus thrown into Hades and assorted gorgons and Minotaurs elaborately slain, Tim Carroll’s Shaw Festival production sees Fry open out what is essentially an extended romp before gently bringing home the importance of having someone to save you.
Fry could give the late Ken Dodd a run for his money in his ability to hold an audience with a story. During his Mythical Pursuits interludes, he acknowledges how Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, the Marvel Comic Universe and the creators of every other labyrinthine latter-day parallel universe took their moves from the Greeks.
In the final part, Fry moves to Troy, unravelling the story of a shipwrecked Odysseus in what is probably the most familiar of the season for the layman and woman. At the end of the entire trilogy’s almost eight-hour marathon, while Fry has studiously body-swerved contemporary politics and kept things largely on a family friendly keel, his plea for humanity is what stands out most in this most epic of adventures in storytelling.
The Herald, August 21st 2019.