Review by Kate Gaul
In the small Womens’ Locker Room, seated in the semi round Alexander Wright fashions an intimate and masterful story from an Ancient Greek myth. He and his collaborator Phil Grainger have a reputation of crafting contemporary stories from Greek myths. In “Helios” it is only Wright who takes the stage in person. He reads from cards, employs audience members to be additional characters and voices, fires an evocative and original soundtrack from his computer by Phil Grainger and takes us on a magical, memorable ,and stirring story.
Helios is the god of the sun. He lived in a golden palace at the far ends of the earth from which he emerged each dawn, crowned with the aureole of the sun, driving a chariot drawn by four winged steeds.
This 21st Century adaptation has him as a commercial pilot who flies planes that drag the sun into place each day. He has two sons Atlas (meaning “to carry”) and Phaeton (meaning “shining” or “radiant”), who are fourteen and seven when the story starts. They live on a hill in a tiny village in Yorkshire, the kind where you know who everyone is and where everything is, even if you’ve never been there before. We get facts about the sun - it takes sunlight an average of 8 minutes and 20 seconds to travel from the Sun to the Earth. Photons emitted from the surface of the Sun need to travel across the vacuum of space to reach our eyes. These photons striking your eyeballs were actually created tens of thousands of years ago and it took that long for them to be emitted by the sun.
This is Phaeton’s coming of age story – of facing the school bus each day; his interactions with bullies; crazy teenage behaviour and, later, finally driving his father’s golden chariot into the city meeting up with the erstwhile bully. They share an unexpected kiss and end the day in chaos.
This story sounds like an epic poem in Wright’s hands. “Helios” will have you laughing, crying and everything in between. Wright makes the story of Helios, Atlas, and Phaeton matter because they are human which is truly the greatest gift a storyteller can give an audience.
Brilliant! Run, do not walk if they come to a venue near you!