Win! FIREDANCE tickets

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Win! Three pairs of tickets to see FIREDANCE, featuring Strictly’s Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer, up for grabs*

Pairing professionally for the first time, Strictly Come Dancing’s Gorka Marquez and Karen Hauer will set temperatures soaring with their new Latin spectacular FIREDANCE touring the UK. Expect the sequins and feather boas to make way for hot pulsing beats, seductive choreography and passionate performances with an incredible live band.

We have a pair of tickets up for grabs for the show at Wycombe Swan on 6th March, another pair for G Live on 7th March and a pair for The Anvil in Basingstoke on Sunday, 15th March **YOU WILL BE GIVEN THE CHANCE TO SELECT YOUR VENUE SHOULD YOU BE DRAWN AS THE WINNER ** (*please specify which venue you’ d like; winners drawn on 21st February).

For more about the tour, visit www.firedancelive.co.uk

To enter, fill in the form below before 12pm on Friday 21st February

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Talking Point: Russell Watson

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Liz Nicholls chats to singer and dad Russell Watson, 53, ahead of his 20th anniversary UK tour.

Q. Hello! Congratulations on 20 years since your album The Voice. How does that feel?
“Thank you! You’d expect to be more thrilled and grateful at the start of your career and then becoming used to it but for me it’s the other way around. I didn’t realise the significance of the record sales at the time. The Voice spent a year at number one in the charts and people kept congratulating me but at the time I was a bit ‘meh’ – I’d say, nah, Robbie Williams has done more, Elton’s done more. Now I look back and can’t believe the arena tours, the sales. It was just happening so quickly but I’m more grateful now.”

Q. How do you take care of your voice?
“I’ve always had to take care of my voice. If you don’t you pay the price later down the line. Dairy is an absolute no-go, as are fizzy drinks and anything spicy. I lived on chicken and boiled rice throughout the entirety of the last 25-date tour I did with Aled Jones, but he didn’t! I’d meet him in the canteen where Aled would be tucking into his meat & potato pie, chips, peas, gravy and a Diet Coke. I‘d ask him how he could have that before going on stage and he’d say ‘Well, that’s the downside of being a tenor!’ But I love Aled; we’ve become really close. It’s nice to have someone you can talk to and trust in the music industry.”

Q. You’ve worked with some stars – who would be your favourite?
“I’ve been very lucky. The list is endless and I’d never want to forget anybody. From Luciano Pavarotti at Hyde Park to Paul McCartney at the Nobel Peace prize awards in Oslo when we sang Let It Be. When I was a kid I remember sitting in my bedroom playing the Beatles bumper songbook and 15 years on I’m singing with the man himself, wow. Shaun Ryder, Meatloaf, Lulu, Mel C ¬– so many amazing people! Lionel Richie definitely stands out, and Cliff Richard; my mum was a massive fan of Cliff when we were kids.”

I haven’t ever stopped loving it!

Q. What’s your first memory of music?
“My grandad was a fantastic classical pianist trained to the highest level but sadly he had serious confidence issues so he never went on stage. But my earliest memories are of leaning against the back leg of his grand piano, falling asleep to the vibrations of the Chopin waltz.”

Q. You left school early didn’t you?
“Yes; I loved school but not from an academic perspective – I always felt I wasn’t ready for learning as a child. I learned more about life and started to read more after I’d left school – I’m not an advocate of leaving school early, though! I come from a working class background and I love my mum and dad to bits but they didn’t in anyway to encourage me to be academic. Maybe if I’d had parents who’d been more pushy I might have been. But I wouldn’t change anything.”

Q. Do you get stage fright?
“No not really! I’d been doing the clubs for years then in 99 I was invited to sing at Old Trafford for Manchester United’s last game of the season in what had been a truly iconic time for the team. I sang Nessun Dorma and walked off to see my dad at the side of the pitch with a tear in his eye (it was windy, he said!). He said: ‘were you not nervous?’ And I said no – I love it! And I’ve never stopped loving it. The more the merrier in terms of the crowd.”

Q. Do you love being a dad more than ever?
“Yes; my bond with my girls got even closer after getting ill with the tumours, particularly the second one when I nearly died. My eldest is 25 now and works with me and they’re both nearby. We pull funny faces and sing the wrong words to pop songs, crying with laughter. They bring the best and most stupid side out of me.”

Tickets

For all tour dates and to buy tickets

Talking point: Liz Bonnin

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Liz Nicholls asks award-winning presenter and biologist Liz Bonnin about school, the live tour of the BBC’s Planet Earth II this spring and how we can all do our bit.

Q. Which early experiences or teachers sparked your love of nature? “I grew up in France, in the mountains above Nice. My sister and I were always out in the wood near our house with our two dogs, having adventures with hedgehogs, snakes and spiders. Nature just works its magic if you plonk kids in the middle of it. At school, I was fascinated by little birds, how everything worked inside that perfect little body, which led me to biology. Then I wanted to understand how everything worked in every living system and I had a great chemistry teacher in Ireland who nurtured my passion. A good teacher will do that. I wasn’t very good at physics or maths but I loved school.”

Q. Do series such as Planet Earth, and Sir David Attenborough’s latest Seven Worlds, One Planet have an influence on how we treat our planet? “We’ve reached a tipping point in terms of our impact, and one of the things I’m most astounded by is that petrochemical companies are just seemingly carrying on as if it’s ‘business as usual’. I believe we can make a difference, but need to be aware of the facts. I think series like Planet Earth can both move and inspire people.”

Q. Has filming Meat: A Threat To Our Planet changed your eating habits? “I already was eating less meat. The show certainly made me think again about how we treat a food that, considering its impact, should be a luxury rather than an everyday staple. I don’t eat red meat and any chicken I eat is free range, high welfare.”

Q. How do you feel about Planet Earth II’s live tour? ”It hasn’t quite sunk in that I’ll be involved. So, to be stepping out as part of the tour and getting to see it all on a gigantic screen with a full orchestra as well… I think I’ll be quite emotional.”

Q. What is it like working with a national treasure Sir David? “I’ve met Sir David on a few occasions now, and I’ll never forget the first time I saw him about 12 years ago when he was talking at an event. I was a bit starstruck; he was my hero when I was growing up. He went from production work into inventing natural history programming with the BBC. There really is nobody else like him and I doubt there ever will be again. He’s not just a national treasure, but one for the whole world.”

More info

For Planet Earth II Live in Concert 2020 visit the website and see our competitions.

Talking point: Brydon time

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Television star, singer and father of five Rob Brydon, 54, talks about his life & career ahead of his new Songs & Stories tour

Q. You’ve just come from your photoshoot for his new live tour, looking good!  “Yes, I was looking rather lovely in a suit and freshly pressed shirt. It was a glorious sight to behold. As you know, I’m a very elegant man. I encapsulate a lot of Daniel Craig… Albeit after he’s been savagely beaten.”

Q. You’ve won gongs at the British Comedy Awards and the Royal Television Society… Why are you yearning to go back to live shows? “Live comedy is just such a buzz. People come just to see you. Sometimes you stand on stage thinking, ‘Good God, these people have all gone to the trouble of paying a babysitter and chosen to come and watch my show.’ That’s a very special feeling. It feels very natural to me. Sometimes people say, ‘I can’t imagine getting up on stage and performing. It would be so terrifying.’ But you don’t choose that life – it’s almost a calling, something you just have to do. You feel very comfortable on stage, and that grows over time. The more you get used to it, the more it becomes your norm. I like to entertain people and make them laugh. It’s a real privilege.”

Q. Is performing Songs & Stories not a risky business? “It’s a deliberate risk. I’ve got to the stage of my career where shows I’m in like Would I Lie To You? and The Trip and stand-up tours return. But I want to go outside my comfort zone and test myself. I’ll be nervous before this tour thinking, ‘What will the reaction be?’ But I’m taking a chance, and the fact that there is risk involved is part of the thrill of it. It will take some people by surprise. There are so many media outlets nowadays that some people might only know me from Gavin and Stacey or Would I Lie To You?. Those people often say to me, ‘I didn’t know you could sing’, and yet I have sung a lot. I hope this show is a very pleasant surprise for audiences. I recently went to see Jeff Goldblum play with his band. That was wonderful. That guy was just there to entertain people. He played his songs, but he did lots of other things as well, like film quizzes. The show followed no rulebook. I found that very liberating and quite instructive.”

Q. When did you realise you had such a beautifully rich singing voice? “I go back to my childhood. I was 16 and starting to get interested in girls, but I was always pining from afar. In my teens I lived in Porthcawl, a coastal town in Wales, and all the cool boys were surfers. I wasn’t a surfer. I had a go once, but I hurt my knee.”

Q. So music was your ticket to cool? “My musical taste was never considered cool. I never set much store by stuff being fashionable. I loved David Bowie and The Police, but also Shakin’ Stevens and Cliff Richard, which not many boys of my age did. Well, not the ones sitting at the back of the bus!”

Q. You don’t sound like a typical teenager! “I didn’t drink. My friends would all drink on a Friday and Saturday, and on a Tuesday and Wednesday, too, just for good measure. That meant they lost their fear of rejection. Unfortunately, I never lost that fear. I knew that I was funny and could make girls laugh. They would want to spend time with me. Had I had the nerve to close the deal with a kiss, I’m sure they would have responded, but I was too frightened. I would see neanderthals from my class with their arm around a girl at the school disco and think, ‘How did he manage that? He can’t string a sentence together and now it looks as if they’re setting up home together’. I talk a lot about my bemusement that girls were going out with those boys. At the time, Joe Jackson’s song, ‘Is She Really Going Out with Him?’ was a big hit, and I sing a bit of that by way of illustration.”

Q. What do you hope the audience take from Songs & Stories? “I hope people will come out happier than when they went in because they’ve had such a great time. I hope they will have forgotten about the world for two hours. As a performer in the last few years, you can really feel that people just want to escape. It’s tangible. People come up to you afterwards and say, ‘I’m so glad you didn’t talk about the state of the country or the current US President.’ My show is an escape. It’s a service. People want to go out and be entertained. In times of adversity, which you could definitely say we are in now, people want that more than ever. Of course, if the box office is still open, a percentage of the audience will be looking for a refund, I don’t doubt that.”

Songs & Stories

is at:

Wycombe Swan on 3rd March
G Live, Guildford on 16 March
New Victoria Theatre, Woking on 24 March

Sir Ranulph Fiennes at Cranford House

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Junior pupils at a South Oxfordshire school have been exploring polar ice caps, arid deserts and yawning caves thanks to an exciting project focused on exploration and the environment.

And now they can look forward to sharing their hard work with none other than the world’s greatest living explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Cranford House, a small independent school in South Oxfordshire, has been running the inspiring project in parallel with several local primary schools whose Years 5 and 6 pupils will also be there on the day to meet the great man himself. As well as enjoying the chance to discuss their work on exploration and climate change with Sir Ranulph, they will also hear him speak of his experiences of life in some of the world’s most extreme places.

Among his many achievements, Sir Ranulph Fiennes successfully climbed Mount Everest, becoming the first person ever to have climbed Everest and crossed both polar ice-caps. He is also the only man alive to have travelled around the planet’s Circumpolar surface.

His latest challenge will see him attempting to become the first person to have crossed both polar ice caps and climbed the highest mountain on every continent. His expedition will raise funds for the Marie Curie charity and Cranford House is proud to be backing his expedition fundraising.

Cranford House’s pupils’ focus on exploration will culminate in a spectacular community event on the morning of Saturday 9th November with balloon rides, climbing walls, viking longships and desert dunes all on offer, and all free of charge.

The school has a history of attracting luminaries from the world of science and literature and Sir Ranulph joins the likes of recent visitors such as astronaut Helen Sharman OBE, and author Marcus Sedgwick in meeting and inspiring pupils.

Find out more

Talking point: Jack Savoretti

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Liz Nicholls chats to globally successful musician & dad Jack Savoretti, 36, who has just released his third hit album Singing To Strangers

Q. You’ve worked with truly amazing musicians. Who would be your dream collaboration? “I have! Seeing my name next to Bob Dylan’s on one of my records is one of my most surreal highlights; his was the first concert I ever went to, aged 17.  Collaborating with lovely Kylie was a pinnacle, too, and working with eccentric, beautiful Mika on this album. Connecting with people, for me, is the best thing about music. Being in a room with someone who has this gift is incredible. My dream collab would’ve been Johnny Cash; that amazing voice.”

Q. How do you listen to music? “I have a beautiful 1960s record player. It doesn’t offer great quality but it gives a wonderful sound, if you know what I mean. My current favourite record is Chet Baker. I also have a nice Bose system for taking it up a notch. My earliest memory of music was the school run and it’s funny because now with my own children that’s the time we all share music, too. My four-year-old son reminded me the other day how great the Ghostbusters song is and my daughter is a little obsessed with ABBA. I wasn’t an ABBA fan but she’s slowly converting me – the songs are brilliant!”

Q. What surprises you most about parenthood? “I think how much you feel. I spent most of my twenties numbing myself. The love, the fear, the worry, the desperation they go to sleep… it’s overwhelming. They don’t know they have this magic trick at first until they figure out how to 
use it against you. I’m eternally grateful.”

Q. Being of European heritage, how does Brexit make you feel? “Sad. It’s a shame that we seem to have trivialised one of the greatest peace treaties of all time – certainly of the last two centuries – and I hate the divisive language being used. I heard the Prime Minister use the word ‘surrender’ and thought that was cheap. The EU isn’t without dysfunction and negotiating changes would’ve been good. But this feels like a lose-lose situation.”

Q. Does November’s season of Remembrance mean much to you? “Yes; a great deal. I think we need to remember the sacrifices previous generations made for us more, especially in school and with what’s happening in politics at the moment. From a personal point of view, I think of my grandfathers. One was Polish and Jewish; he married a German woman young and escaped to Paris and then London. My father’s father fought against Fascism to stop his country being torn apart by divisive language [in Italy a street bears the Savoretti name]. I’m fascinated by that generation’s stories. That’s how complex peace is – ironically you sometimes have to fight for it. Many men and women suffered and lost their lives in the name of peaceful, liberal values which I hope endure.”

Find out more

Read more about Jack’s music and to buy his album

Talking point: Country smile

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Liz Nicholls asks broadcaster & dad John Craven, 79, about his life & career ahead of his appearance at Guildford Literary Festival

We’re looking forward to reading your memoirs. How has it been looking back on your long & successful career? “It’s the first time I’ve written anything like this and it took a bit of getting used to. All through my TV career I’ve had to keep my scripts short – but the book gave me the chance to expand and I ended up with 93,000 words. There are chapters on everything from my childhood to Countryfile, taking in my time on Newsround and SwapShop – three programmes which were all TV ‘firsts’ and which I’m incredibly proud of. Some people would prefer to forget the shows that made them well-known. Not me!”

 How did you get into broadcasting? “I had a false start; at 18 I’d been ‘spotted’ by an ITV youth programme but they sacked me after a few appearances for being too old! So I went into print journalism, joined the BBC in Newcastle as a news scriptwriter in 1965 and made a few films for the regional Look Northprogramme. I then moved to Bristol as a freelance reporter. The network production centre there made children’s programmes, such as Animal Magicwith Johnny Morris and Vision On with Tony Hart, and I auditioned for the presenter role on a new one called Search. I got the job and that led to Newsround in 1972.”

What do you think has been your greatest highlight? “There’ve been lots but one that I recall in the book is when I knocked on a door and it was answered by a future saint…. Mother Teresa. I went to the Mother House of her nuns in the slums of Kolkata to make film about her mission to care for both the dying and young orphans and she was wonderful.”

If you could make one change to benefit the UK countryside, what would it be? “We need to stop young people leaving the rural communities by building more affordable homes and more amenities. Rural people have become increasingly isolated and we need to reverse that trend. More than a third of small farms have disappeared this century and many others are struggling to survive. Unless we can attract more people to farming I worry for the future of food production in this country.”

Where are your favourite parts of the UK? “My favourite spot in Oxfordshire is Blenheim Palace with its spectacular grounds and walks. I was born and bred in Yorkshire and have lived in the North East, Gloucestershire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – all places with wonderful countryside – but if I were to name my favourite part of rural Britain, it would have to be the Yorkshire Dales where, as a child, I first came face-to-face with nature.”

 Like me you started as a newspaper reporter – how do you feel about how the media industry has changed? “It’s so different now from when I set out. Television was black-and-white with just two channels. There wasn’t a clear career path and no such word as ‘media’. Now there are media degree courses galore, and many different programme outlets. On the minus side, there is a lot more competition. But I’m a great believer in luck, and with determination and a bit of talent, there is no reason why you can’t make it.”

Do you consider yourself healthy? “I don’t do anything special but I do try and make careful choices and be sensible. I also walk a lot, but that’s it. Until a few years ago I went to the gym regularly but I don’t feel the need to do that anymore.”

What advice would you give to any budding journalists or presenters? “I always say ‘Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it safe’.”

 Who would you most like to have worked with? “Thomas Telford is one of my heroes as he has had such an impact on our landscapes building canals, roads, bridges and viaducts. What a privilege it would have been to work with him.”

What’s on your horizon? “I’ve always dreamt of being on a big-budget programme but it’s never happened, and I know it won’t come along now. I’ve had a reasonable life from TV and continue to do so although it’s on my terms these days. I still do around 10 assignments a year for Countryfile, and I’m able to pick and choose.”

What are you reading now? “Airhead by Emily Maitlis. It’s a brilliant, often funny, behind-the-scenes account of her working life, written by one of Britain’s best television broadcasters. It proves she’s far from an airhead!”

What is your proudest moment? “Apart from becoming a father twice, it was receiving the OBE for services to children’s and rural broadcasting – the two areas that have defined my career.”

Headlines & Hedgerows:

John will talk about his memoir, Headlines & Hedgerows, at Guildford Book Festival on Tuesday, 8th October, 6.30-7.30pm, The Electric Theatre, Guildford. Book at via website or call 01483 444334.

Literary heaven

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Marlborough is set to welcome writers and readers of all sorts as it celebrates 10 years of its LitFest

Award-winning writers, established names and emerging authors are all on the bill at this year’s Marlborough LitFest which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Children’s authors, poetry events and themes including history, archaeology, mental health, travel, sports, food, nature and adventure should guarantee that there truly is something for everyone to enjoy this month.

Among the well-known names set to appear are Ben Okri, who is this year’s Golding Speaker, and favourites such as ian Rankin, Joanne Harris, Carol Ann Duffy, Robert Harris and David Baddiel.

Chair of Marlborough LitFest, Genevieve Clarke, said: “The LitFest has come a long way in 10 years. We’re thrilled to be celebrating our first decade with established literary names, plenty of writers just starting out, a mix of themes, creative workshops and a fabulous children’s programme. We’ve also stepped up our commitment to outreach as a way of drawing in new audiences from Marlborough and beyond. I’d like to thank our committee, volunteers and sponsors for all their help in putting together an exciting programme for 2019.”

The festival which features nearly 40 events this year will begin with poet Carol Ann Duffy on Thursday, 26th September at Marlborough College where she will read from her latest collection, Sincerity as well as some of her earlier work.

The Golding Speaker Ben Okri will address the audience at the Town Hall on Friday 27th. The Nigerian-born writer came to recognition in 1991 when aged just 32 he was the youngest winner of the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Famished Road.

Debut authors will feature alongside the established with Elizabeth Macneal and Stacey Halls showcasing their novels on Saturday 28th. Macneal’s The Doll Factory is set in 1850s London and tells of a woman who is both artist and artist’s model. Halls’s novel The Familiars is set at the time of the Pendle witch trials when 10 people were hanged for murder by witchcraft.

Among the other attractions is this year’s Big Town Read, Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path,

chosen for local book groups to enjoy and telling the true story of a homeless, penniless, jobless couple who walk the 630 miles of the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Poole. Their walk and the story of it is defiant and life-affirming.

Festival favourite, Poetry in the Pub returns and new for this year is LitFest’s own What the Papers Say on Sunday morning.

A key feature of this year’s festival is the growth of its outreach events which intend to bring the best of good writing to Marlborough and this year includes a partnership with Save the Children, links with HMP Erlestoke and increased activity with local schools.

Find out more

To find out more about everything that’s going on and to book, visit

Brian Blessed

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Peter Anderson chats to Brian Blessed, director of Towards Zero at the Mill At Sonning about meeting Agatha Christie and more…

‘A murder is the culmination of a lot of different circumstances all converging at a given time, at a given point. It’s Zero Hour.” So says Superintendent Battle in Agatha Christie’s Towards Zero.

The play begins with the shipping forecast, but the weather does not suddenly happen – it is the result of many influences and other events, in the same way murder does not just happen. Towards Zero is the current play at the Mill at Sonning, and the team are pleased that Brian Blessed, is once again directing one of Christie’s plays.

The “Queen of Crime” wrote it in 1944, when Agatha was married to Max Mallowan and living at Winterbrook, near Cholsey. But it was just over a decade later when a young Brian Blessed met Agatha Christie.

He was just starting his first job at Nottingham Playhouse where they ran a fortnightly repertory company under the artistic director Val May (who was later the artistic director of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre at Guildford) for the princely sum of £4-19-6 per week.

Agatha Christie was putting on Spiders Web at the Theatre Royal and came to the Playhouse for a look around. In those days the Stage Door opened on to the street.

Agatha and Brian often met up during the following three weeks. She helped him source some props he needed and told him some of her wishes about how her plays should be staged. Some of these, all these years later, Brian has remembered and used at The Mill, including the suit of armour that came to life. Towards Zero was Agatha’s favourite play, he recalls, and that of her good friend Robert Graves, the author of I Claudius.

Sometimes, either before or after their meetings, she was not going back to the theatre but to the police station to see if there had been any interesting murders! She described her meetings with him as relaxing which, for a lady who said that sometimes her head felt like a house where a light was on in at least one room 24 hours a day, must have been a blessing. Sadly, for Brian, her one gift to him apart from the advice a small radio covered in red velvet was taken from his bedsit.

As to what the audience can expect at the Mill, period music and the perpetual ticking of many different clocks as we head to the zero hour. Agatha was not Bran’s only source of advice, for Superintendent Battle, he went back to one of his early television roles – PC “Fancy” Smith on Z Cars.

Get tickets

Towards Zero runs until Saturday, 28th September; visit their website for tickets

Talking point: Fry & mighty!

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Actor, comedian & writer Stephen Fry, 62, tells us about his new show Mythos: A Trilogy – Gods. Heroes. Men

 

Stephen Fry is undertaking his first UK tour in nearly 40 years. Rightly hailed as a wonderful storyteller, he will be travelling the country with his new show.

Stephen will travel the UK, including visits to London and Oxford, delivering this trilogy of plays about Greek gods, heroes and men. Loosely scripted, each evening will afford the audience the opportunity to revel in Stephen’s signature wit, natural charm and effortless intelligence.

Q. We’re interested in the format of this show – can you tell us more about it?

A: “I tried Mythos out at the Shaw Festival in Canada last year, and it went so well. It was also a really interesting use of the stage; it’s not stand-up comedy and it’s not drama. It felt like a new genre, and yet it’s the oldest genre there is – gathering people round the fire to tell them the story of how everything began.”

Q. It sounds like a return to the original oral tradition?

A: “The myths are such great stories, and it just struck me as a fun way of telling them. I also noticed a lot of people really enjoy audio books. Because these stories were originally told to other listeners, they work incredibly well in that communal sense of the hearth. After a long day’s work or a long day chasing antelope, early humans would all come back and sit round the fire and tell stories of how the world was made and how spiders would spin webs and so on.”

Q. You have an immense knowledge of Greek mythology; are you hoping to share this with the wider audience?

A: “The stories cast a kind of spell if you are telling them right. Two of the most popular ‘man-made’ mythological sequences are the Tolkien and the JK Rowling series – I suppose you could add to that what is known as the MCU, the Marvel Comics Universe, and Game of Thrones to that mix. ‎These are 20th century versions of Greek myth – and they owe everything to Greek myth. It shows there’s a great yearning for stories which are out of our own milieu.‎ The moment you are inside that story, it’s more universal because it’s about the human spirit without it actually being about living in London, or living in Manchester, or living in New York, or living in Hong Kong, which is a very specific thing. I think that’s why people flock to see things like The Lord of the Rings, The Avengers or Game of Thrones. You have the elemental nature of greed, betrayal, lust, love, passion – these human virtues and vices are all on display. You don’t have to think it’s a satire on politics – it’s about everything. I think that’s part of the excitement of it.”

Q. Do think people need to have studied classics at school to appreciate the show?

A: “There is an enormous appetite amongst all kinds of people to put right what they left out at school. That’s why history, science and art are so popular now. More people go to art galleries in London than football matches. There is this hunger for knowing more, a curiosity. I hope I can take the smell of the school out of Greek myths because a lot of people associate them with a so-called classical education and believe that you have to be intellectual to understand them.‎ But that’s just not the case. It’s not a test of intelligence, it’s quite the reverse. It’s welcoming you into this fantastic world, which is universal, sexy, juicy and full of fury and rage and adventures.”

Q. Can you give us an example of a myth that resonates with modern times?

A: “The story of Pandora’s Box is very much analogous with the rise of the internet. ‎The Greeks understood that if something was too good to be true, then it was too good to be true. Everything casts a shadow – it took us a little bit of time to realise that the internet was casting a shadow. Pandora means gifted – she was given all the gifts of all the different Gods: wisdom, beauty, prophecy, art and music and so on. But she was also given this box which she was told she wasn’t to open. I was incredibly naive.‎ When I was a very early user of the internet, I was a huge evangelist for it – I thought that it would solve the problems of the world. I thought, ‘Boundaries will dissolve and tribal divides and hatreds will disappear, and we’ll all suddenly understand each other and people who have unusual and different hobbies will be able to contact each other across the world instantly rather than relying on quarterly fanzines. Pandora opened a box and out flew all these creatures who destroyed the world in which humans lived. This world without pain, this paradisiacal world was suddenly infested with the creatures from her box: war, famine, lies, murder, betrayal, lust and anger. Similarly, at some point in the first decade of this century, the lid of the box came off the internet, and trolls, abusers, groomers, misinformation, viruses, all flew out. What had seemed like a paradise, a beautiful clean pool in which we could all swim, was suddenly littered with broken glass and horribly polluted. That can sound very pessimistic, but the lesson is that life can be very tough.”

Q. Can anyone connect with these stories then?

A: “I’d heard of Narcissus and Echo. I knew there was something about turning into a flower, but I never knew that.’ I also hope everyone connects with these myths, which are deep in our language and our culture. I think this show will feed our curiosity. The most important thing is that the audience realise just how approachable the Greek myths are. These are the creations of ordinary people. They are all our ancestors.”

The shows:

The shows visits Oxford’s New Theatre & London Palladium. Tickets from £43.50.