Wright and Grainger have a beautiful gift for taking Ancient Greek stories and hauling them into the 21st century, translating the touching and keeping the human truth intact. So this Helios may or may not be the god of the sun but he’s a commercial pilot who flies planes across the sky. These planes may or may not drag the sun behind them. His two sons, Atlas and Phaeton, are 14 and seven when our 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.

Written and performed by Alexander Flanagan Wright, Helios takes us from school buses, bullies, and random acts of bravery, to Phaeton driving his father’s golden chariot into the big city for one glorious day of chaos. In a sense, the base story is irrelevant as this Helios story hangs together as compellingly as the classic. But Wright makes his audience work for it. ‘Who knows any facts about the sun?’ he asks us at the show’s outset? Later, we’re invited to help Alex tell his story via pre-printed prompt cards. It’s a nice way of varying the delivery in this one man show and enjoyable to watch other audience members discovering the story alongside the performer.

Wright’s text has a beautiful musicality more akin to an epic poem than a piece of prose, but he delivers it with a shuffling self-deprecation that tempers the majesty of his words. He’s accompanied by an evocative, witty soundtrack, created by his partner in crime, Phil Clive Grainger (and Elton John) so what, in other hands, could be a small town story of love and loss, is elevated to something mythical and magic. 

(If you like this, you may love Wright and Grainger’s late night show, also at Summerhall, a Bacchanalian recreation of their epic album of spoken word and music, dedicated to The Gods The Gods The Gods: club night meets performance poetry meets musical orgy – it’s epic. Enjoy.)

Helios runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Summerhall – Former Womens Locker Room at 15:15