John Barton's epic cycle of plays Tantalus based on several traditions of Greek Mythology and numerous other sources is a story of murder, intrigue, sex and betrayal. Sounds like a soap opera, but it is a dream come true for any lover of serious theatre.
Tantalus begins on a bare place, where we see a couple of women. They have missed the boat and are waiting for a new one, killing time by telling stories to each other. In comes The Poet who proceeds to tell the story of Helen's kidnapping by Paris and the Trojans. Helen's capture prompts the Greeks, led by Helen's husband Menelaos and his brother Agamemnon, great-grandsons of Tantalus, to attack the Trojans and wage the ten years war culminating with the fabled Trojan Horse attack which signals the end of the city of Troy.
Tantalus is full of mythical characters and familiar tales: Iphigenia, Agamemnon's daughter, sacrificed in Aulis, so that the Gods would grant them favourable winds for the thousand ships to ail to Troy. Clytemnestra, Agamemnon's wife, who later kills her husband when he returns to Mycenae with Cassandra, a prophet cursed by Apollo with the gift of prophecy, the only caveat being that no one would believe her. Achilles the fierce warrior blessed with invincibility everywhere except his heel, whose son Neoptolemus avenges his father's dream with ruthless bloodshed.
Directed by Aus Greidanus, Tantalus is a cycle consisting of three parts, each part containing three plays. Part I: The Outbreak of War, Part II The War and Part III The Homecomings. Nine actors play the 31 major characters, while the actresses of the seven-person chorus play the supporting roles. Over eleven hours in length (meals included) Tantalus is a great achievement for all involved, a must for every theatregoer.
John Barton on Tantalus (windows media audio)