Peter Shaffer chose strange and haunting sounds played on primitive instruments such as saws, tablas and bongos, reed pipes, and cymbals to create the ambience of 16th Century Peru. The play uses simple staging: the ground plan includes upper and lower sections. The main prop is the image of the sun. The sun in the original play was a large metal contraption, with huge rays that opened up and outwards. Inca costumes and visual symbols enhance the production.
Francisco Pizarro recruits 167 men to explore Peru. Hernando de Soto and Vicente de Valverde, his right hand man and a Catholic priest accompany him. Their mission is to spread the shining light of Christianity.
Old Martin, a man in his mid-fifties, is the narrator. Young Martin is a character that plays a younger version of him. At the beginning of the journey chivalry, glory and honor obsesses him. Martin increasingly misunderstands, as Pizarro's crisis of faith also unravels.
The Spanish explorers invade Peru, looking for gold. They climb a mountain to approach the home of the Incan King Atahualpa, the Sun god's son. The Spanish explorers kill 3,000 Incas and capture King Atahualpa. Pizarro bargains with Atahualpa. If he fills an entire room with golden objects in two months time, Pizarro promises to free Atahualpa without harming him. During the king’s captivity, Pizarro and Atahualpa become increasingly close.
Pizarro, has an old painful wound, that causes a great deal of suffering. He has a crisis of faith. He tells Martin that he had dreams of the Sun God when he was young. At the end of the prescribed time, Pizarro requests Atahualpa to promise to leave his men alone, but the king declines.
The Spaniards beg Pizarro to execute Atahualpa resulting...