Troy or bust

Robert Penny

Zig Zag: Ancient Greeks Video pack Pounds 38, Resource pack Pounds 11. 99 From BBC Educational Publishing, P O Box 234 Wetherby, West Yorks LS23 7EU Age: 7-9 plus

Last term's series of Zig Zag gave us a guided tour of Ancient Greece, in the company of a potter, who retells the myths and legends of the period, and an archaeologist who relates those myths to modern discoveries.

The two different styles mix well. The myths grab our attention, thanks to the potter's easy and informative delivery, which tells us much about the culture and society of Greece at the time. He is an excellent storyteller, which is one of the series' strong points.

Sadly, when his narration ends and the dramatised version of events begins, things deteriorate. These dramatisations consist of a few actors, with even fewer facial expressions. The story of Theseus and the Minotaur, for example, is particularly bad, with an actor incapable of registering emotion and a laughable fight scene.

The programmes are well balanced, alternating between myth and the "reality" according to archaeological discoveries. The story of Theseus is backed up by a visit to the remains of a palace that could have been Minos's.

Although the mythical stories have been simplified, most of the important areas are covered. The best is undoubtedly about the fall of Troy. The potter narrates this tale with particular relish and we visit sites all over Greece, as well as the reputed site of Troy itself in Asia Minor.

The teaching pack is well presented and covers the Greek way of life, has numerous activities and suggestions for further study.

All the programmes encourage children to question how much of a myth is true and what relevance it had to the lives Greeks actually led. They illustrate the variety of sources on which we depend for much of our information about ancient Greek civilisation, as well as ways in which these sources can be preserved for the future.

Robert Penny is a 15-year-old pupil at Howard of Effingham School, Surrey, who has had work experience at The TES. A new series of Zig Zag will be reviewed early next term.

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