We were delighted to welcome storyteller and creator of the Trojan Podcast Jeff Wright to the Classics Centre yesterday. Jeff had travelled all the way from Canada to put on a special performance of his show "Helen, Some Heroes and a Horse", which features highlights from the myths surrounding the Trojan War. In front of an audience of about a hundred people - students studying Latin and Classics at Cheney, as well as some parents and community visitors - Jeff delivered a fast-paced and thrilling one-man show!
He started by humorously outlining some of the key Trojan characters - Hector, Priam and Paris - before launching into a hilarious account of the judgement of Paris, where the rather feckless prince had to choose which goddess was the fairest: Hera, Athene or Aphrodite. He continued by telling how Paris and Helen, the famously beautiful wife of Menelaus, snuck out of Sparta and returned to the walls of Troy. Agamemnon then raised a Greek force of a thousand ships to sail across the Aegean, and the War began.
Jeff filled out the details of some of the Greek star players too - Agamemnon, politically-minded and powerful, Achilles the greatest fighter of them all, and Odysseus, crafty and cunning. The fight on the beach between Achilles and Agamemnon was told, as well as interesting and unexpected details of the raids on neighbouring towns. The duel between Menelaus and Paris was a comedy of errors and confusion, which ended in Paris being whisked away off the battlefield in a cloud of dust and back to Helen.
At this point, the audience had an interval to take a breath, before plunging back into some of the most moving and intense parts of the story. There was also an opportunity to view some replica artefacts from Mycenaean times, such as an octopus jar and sistron (musical instrument), a model of the Trojan horse and our beautiful replica Corinthian helmet.
Act two began, and the action intensified. Patroclus dresses in Achilles' armour and is killed, and Achilles falls into a rage of sorrow. Jeff evoked the sound of Achilles wild anger as he barked out "Hector!" around the city walls. The fight was described, including the terrifying and haunting account of swift-footed Achilles' cat-and-mouse game of chasing Hector three times around the city.
Jeff then detailed the horror of Achilles' mutilation of Hector's corpse, and recreated the breath-taking moment that Priam appeared in Achilles' tent, pleading for the body of his son. Ten days of games follows, and the audience heard, with much entertaining detail, the story of Odysseus' wild plan of the wooden horse. We ended with Troy burning, and a brief account of how the site of Troy was lost for hundreds of years until a German businessman developed an obsession with finding it.
The show was a tremendous example of the power of a gripping story well told - everyone was drawn up into the excitement, the tragedy, the comedy and the wonderful details of character and situation which brought these ancient stories so vividly to life!
We are hugely grateful to Jeff for a performance that no one will forget.