Listening Corner

10th March 1995 at 00:00
Tales of the Greek Legends, read by Benjamin Soames. Junior Classics series of Naxos AudioBooks. Two cassettes Pounds 5.99 or two CDs Pounds 7.49 Naxos AudioBooks, 55 Long Lane, London N3 2HY.

The Greek legends are not for the faint-hearted. Which partly explains why children love them so. Full of cruelty, blood, ugliness, the mightiest heroes that ever trod the earth and the most malevolent of enemies, they can't help but grip young minds hungry for hyperbole and drama.

Tales from the Greek Legends packs them all in, focusing on some and skirting over others. The stories are divided into Gods and Titans, which looks at the creation of the godly hierarchy, Perseus, the 12 labours of Heracles, Theseus' colourful journeys and Jason and the Argonauts.

Where the readings are at their best is when bits of dialogue and music are employed to break up the narrative and add colour.

More often than not, though, Soames delivers the text without musical accompaniment. While the effect of the straight storytelling can be potent, as in the case of Theseus and the Minotaur, when the build-up of tension as the hero waits for the man-bull in the maze is enough to make you sweat, opportunities do seem to have been missed.

No attempt is made, for instance, to offer an interpretation of the Sirens' eerie songs nor, for that matter, Orpheus's. Similarly, my all-time favourites, the Harpies, fail to get a word in.

Although recommended for children aged eight and up, the sophisticated language is likely to be beyond the understanding of under-10s.

But with the appropriate target group, the tapes are a good, sometimes riveting introduction to the gory world of the Greek gods.

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