Chariot of Light

by Anita Sullivan
Chariot of Light


'Chariot of Light' was a one-off unique event created for and with the community of Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth in Scotland. The site-specific promenade show involved a coal-yard, a steam train, an oil refinery, fireworks, a nature-reserve, a large community cast and a beach. The story was based the Ovid's story of Phaeton, the boy who discovered that his father was the sungod, and drove his father's chariot of the sun without the strength to control it. This story was given a local and contemporary context, with input from local writers.

Produced by The Working Party, Glasgow and directed by Benno Plasmann.

Duration 2 hours


[The opening scene is in a coalyard. Phaeton and the mine workers chant as the shift coal.]

Work in mine/ Five to nine/ Hard to face/ Monday

Dig for pay/Night and day/ Sweating black/ Coal dust

Underground/Endless grind/Get my pay/Friday

Down pit/Swing pick/Sweat drip

Face black/Break back/Don’t slack

(TEA BREAK: Tea is served to audience while cast tell STORIES ABOUT WORK in small groups. Phaeton attempts to tell his story to each group but is turned away. Eventually he becomes so frustrated he stands to tell his story.)

PHAETON -Oi! You lot. Are you listening to me? Oi! I said, shut up. I’m sick being pushed aside, ignored. Laughed at. I’ve had enough. Yous are damn well going to stand there and listen to what I’ve got to say for once. My name is Phaeton. My name was given to me by my father. And my father is the god of the sun. All right?

MINERS -That again/ We’ve heard it all before/ Don’t believe a word of it/ Blethers

PHAETON -It's true. My dad’s the Sungod. He drives the great fiery chariot of light through the sky. He makes the difference between day and night, between winter and summer. That’s my dad.

MINERS -How can the sun be someone’s dad/ He’s off his head/ He’s talking shite

PHAETON -I’m not mad. I’m special, different from all you folk, but I’m not mad. Every day at the end of the shift I come up from the dark pit and look up at the bright, beautiful sun. And he’s shining down on me: just me. I look up and see the sun and know that one day, I’m going to be out of here, away from all this, dirt and dark and work. Away from you lot, nipping my head. I’ll be up in the sky blazing down on you all, driving the chariot of light. And you’ll not be laughing at me then.

MINERS -Who the hell does he think he is?/ Big-head/ Thinks he’s too good for us/ Thinks we’re beneath him.

PHAETON -I don’t care if you believe me or not. I know its true. My mother said.

GAFFER -Your mother said? Yeah we all know why that is. She doesn’t know who your real dad is so she made something up.

MINERS -Your real dad’s dead/ Your real dad’s an alchie/ Your real dad’s a waster/ Your real dad’s a nutter/ Your real dad pees his pants in Tescos

PHAETON -That’s not true! My mother swears it.

MINERS -Phaeton’s mum’s a slapper/ Phaeton’s mum’s a liar

PHAETON -Mum! Mum! They’re all laughing at me. Tell them it’s true. Tell them who my father is.

[Phaeton’s mother is revealed]

MOTHER-You lot, you leave my boy alone. What he says is true. His father is the Sungod. I swear it on my life, and on the sun itself who’s looking down on us. If I tell a lie my I be struck blind. Aye, struck blind right now… See, nothing’s happened.


PHAETON -I need more proof than that.

MOTHER -Well if you’ll not believe your own mother, go ask that father of yours.

PHAETON -The Sungod?

MOTHER -Aye. The Sungod. Why not? Head east beyond the dawn and there you’ll find his palace. Ask him.

PHAETON -All right! Bye mum! You hear that? I’m going to the sunpalace to see my father, and you lot’ll be laughing on the other side of your stupid faces.

[He sets off for the Sunpalace, leading the miners and audience in a procession.


There were many lessons to be drawn from the bigger picture and if none was rammed home relentlessly that was no bad thing... The real delight however was in the attention to detail... The chariot ride on board the steam train was punctuated by spotlit treasures, verse hung from the luggage racks, fatalistic flight instructions and a ear-catching soundtrack. The Herald 16/12/02 Keith Bruce

It's a production which weaves in suprising patterns, facts and history of the area and our universe, and astonishing use of the potent energies of steam and chemical works... close to a religious act... As a professional/ community collaboration Chariot of Light is one of the most stretching and extraordinary I have experienced. Thelma Good


Chariot of Light cast

The cast and ushers

Chariot of Light youngsters

Young performers

Chariot of Light procession

Audience in procession

Chariot of Light Phaeton

At Bo'ness steam railway

Chariot of Light train

Embarkation on the steam train

Chariot of Light promenade

Promenade throught he nature reserve

Chariot of Light King


Chariot of Light King and Crown

Phaeton's crown

Chariot of Light fireworks

The chariot of light explodes over the estuary

Chariot of Light train passengers

The audience returns home on the steam train, reading the show newspaper


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