WHEN it came to staging a play inspired by the ancient Olympics and the comedies of Aristophanes, Spike Theatre company had just one major hurdle to overcome.
“One of the key things about the ancient Olympics was that all the competitors were completely naked,” said director and actor Mark Smith. “We had to work out how to get around having three people naked on stage. In the end we made fake willies from tights and ping pong balls, and had flesh coloured pants protecting our modesty.”
Smith plays the failed poet Stanzas, alongside Liam Tobin as Darius and Keddy Sutton as Hermaphrodite.
“The story is based on a huge bet between three Greek gods as to whether all man wants is glory,” he says. “But it turns out that it’s actually all about friendship. The structure is based on Aristophanes and I like to think it’s intelligently stupid — if you know about Greek drama you will understand about the structure, but if you don’t then it really doesn’t matter.”
There’s plenty of silly fun in the show, including an improvised chariot race, and the actor certainly work up a sweat. It was first produced in 2010 in co-ordination with the Met, but will be touring this year to celebrate the London Olympics.
“We wanted to celebrate 2012 with something that is funny and can inform people about sport in a fun way,” says Smith. “They had some very strange sports — like all day wrestling, which was the cage fighting of its day. The rules meant you couldn’t poke your opponent in the eye, but you could strangle them.”
The five month tour will start at The Met on Tuesday, before heading out to every region of the country.
“It’s nice to launch a quite major from a nice friendly place like Bury,” said Mark.
• The Games is at The Met, in Market Street, tonight. Tickets cost £10/£6 concessions, to book visit themet.biz or ring 0161 761 2216.