Helios is a solo show written and performed by Alexander Wright of Wright and Grainger. It’s a beautiful and delicate piece of storytelling that follows the Ancient Greek myth of Helios.
A proper schoolboy adventure
The protagonist is a boy called Phaeton who lives with his family at the bottom of a hill in Yorkshire. Phaeton is sensitive and independent but, for reasons that later become clear, he can no longer get to the top of the hill. We realise that he is somehow blocked.
Phaeton’s dad, Helios, is a pilot and is often away from home. Phaeton brags about driving his dad’s car and flying his dad’s aeroplane in order to impress the boys at school. One schoolboy is particularly bullying, but the relationship soon shifts to one of mutual admiration, and the two boys become very close.
Helios is performed in the round in a small room, enabling us to see the faces and reactions of audience members sitting opposite us. We feel part of an ancient story-telling tradition that goes back to the Ancient Greeks and beyond.
The story is told in third person, but switches into first person for the dialogue. Volunteers from the audience are asked to read in for the other parts.
It’s a proper schoolboy adventure and Wright’s storytelling is paced so beautifully that the excitement and dread build throughout.
The story is written as an epic poem of sorts but Wright’s charming and thoughtful delivery turns what could otherwise be classic and grand into something personal and rather intimate.
There is also a nicely curated soundtrack which contributes to the overall emotionality of the journey.
Like the original, it’s a complex rite-of-passage that explores ambition, peer pressure and recklessness, but at the core it’s a story about grief and love.
Helios is beautiful, and worth seeing (if you can get a ticket!)