Review: HELIOS - ADELAIDE FRINGE 2024 at The Yurt At The Courtyard Of Curiosities At The Migration Museum

An updated version of the Greek myth of Phaedon, son of Helios

By: Feb. 22, 2024
Review: HELIOS - ADELAIDE FRINGE 2024 at The Yurt At The Courtyard Of Curiosities At The Migration Museum
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Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Tuesday20TH February 2024

Helios, the latest production from the team of Alex Wright and Phil Grainger, is so far from the average, or indeed high, standard of solo shows this Fringe as to be in the next universe. Just stop reading now and book. The yurt in the Migration Museum courtyard is small and there is no easy way to book if you turn up on site.

While Helios is the sun god, the story is about his son Phaeton. In the Greek myth, Phaeton steals the chariot of the sun, which his father drives across the sky, and his reckless escapade ends in tragedy. This telling of the story brings it down to earth. Phaeton and his mother live in a house neither all the way up nor all the way down, halfway up a hill. His estranged father is an airline pilot and Phaeton, known to his mates as Tony, watches the sun rise every morning, knowing that his father is piloting the plane that takes off just ahead of sunrise, seemingly bringing it into the sky for its daily journey.

We follow his life through the next four years. He catches the school bus every morning. There are squabbles on the bus with the guy who becomes his best mate later, and a wonderful tale of a car theft at a fourteenth birthday that has a later resonance in the climax of the story. It is beyond wonderful.

You enter the yurt, there’s a tech operator in the corner, an arrangement of very stylish light fittings, and a man. This is Alex Wright. He begins by asking if anyone knows the story of Phaeton. I have A level Latin and love the old stories. When I interviewed the team for my program at radio station 5EBI, Wright thanked me for my knowing the story better than most but explained he asks the question to give audiences who don’t know the story permission to just take the story in as it unfolds. It unfolds with epic mastery.

So, this is where you stop reading for a moment and book to see the show. Yes, it takes its origins from the classics, but places it in contemporary terms and sets it in the part of Yorkshire from which both Wright and Grainger come, and where they still live. This is the earth down to which they bring the story. These are the roads you follow to the city, bright with lights. These are the bars for the drunken stumble, and the unexpected kiss.

While Grav at Holden Street is one of the finest examples of what I know now is referred to as a performance text, touched with a lilting Welsh accent, Helios breaks the surly bonds of earth. If I go again, I’ll be occupying your seat. I want the script. I want to sit at home and read it aloud and feel just a touch of its magic. Take my word for it, or not. Just go.