ANGER seems all-pervasive just now: anger at austerity, poverty and precarious living, anger at Trump, anger that Brexit isn’t happening as billed, anger that Brexit is happening at all.

Achilles, the strongest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War, knew about anger. Or at least he’s known for his anger, with the opening lines of Homer’s Iliad immediately associating him with the trait: “Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans [Greeks].”

Invulnerable except at the heel by which his mother dipped him into the River Styx as an infant, Achilles may be fearsome but he’s also emotionally imbalanced.

When his childhood friend Patroclus is killed in battle by Hector, champion of the Trojans, Achilles goes on such a furious rampage even Zeus has to get involved, sending gods in an attempt to restrain him. The implication is that the unhindered rage of Achilles is so powerful it can even defy fate itself.

Ewan Downie, co-founder of Scottish theatre-makers Company of Wolves, is the creator and performer of an energetic, passionate solo piece inspired by the story of the troubled warrior.

“We live in a time where the public display of rage is a daily sport,” Downie says. “Achilles shows us where this particular rabbit hole goes. When we snuff out our empathy and give primacy to our hurt emotions, each one of us is capable of great destruction.”

Using storytelling, dance and song, Downie will perform the work at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, for five nights before a single show at Edinburgh’s Traverse as part of manipulate, the visual theatre and film festival produced by Puppet Animation Scotland.

It’s the performer, writer, director and teacher’s first solo work, despite having been involved in movement and experimental theatre for more than 20 years. Working on Achilles was another departure for Downie, who spent more than eight years immersed in the Polish laboratory theatre tradition, which is mostly collaborative.

“During my training for the company I worked with in Poland, there was always an ensemble of around seven people,” he says, referring to the renowned Song of Goat theatre company with whom he toured internationally to award-winning acclaim. Though the production is co-directed by Ian Spink, for much of its development, Downie worked on Achilles alone.

“It was a challenge,” he says. “When you work with others there’s this constant feedback loop. But this was something I had wanted to do for years. I was curious to see how I could adapt the way I’d previously been working to a solo show.”

Downie says the desire to do a solo show came before he knew what the piece would be about. Later in the spring, he says, Company of Wolves co-director Anna Porubcansky will also stage her first solo work.

“There’s a saying in poetry that writing poetry starts with a kind of itch or discomfort,” he says. “I knew that there was something to be done, I just wasn’t quite sure what it was. Over time I began to zero in on what it was that I wanted this piece to be about and I did have a sort of eureka moment when I realised that some of these themes were kind of coalescing around the story of Achilles.”

Downie had first read a novelisation of Achilles’s story as an eight-year-old. Invincible and with the gods on his side, the warrior seemed like an ancient superhero. However, when he read The Iliad as a young man, Downie says his childhood admiration for the character shattered.

“As a child I found him admirable but when I read The Iliad I found it extremely disturbing,” he says. “He’s not a very heroic figure at all, certainly not one we would recognise as a hero. As a young boy the idea of being invulnerable sounded brilliant but when you think about what being invulnerable means with a kind of adult understanding it’s actually horrible.”

As well as movement and elements of storytelling, Downie will partly relay his version of the myth through three songs based on laments from northern Greece. Voice work for Achilles was developed with Kristin Linklater, one of the world’s top voice and text teachers. Returning to the Orkney Islands after leaving to work in the US in the 1960s, Linklater worked with Downie on Achilles over six days.

“I’d already had the good fortune to work with her in Poland, and it was great to work with her one-on-one on Achilles,” he says. “She really helped me regarding the kind of quality of the voice and its connection to the text.”

Achilles was initially performed at Glasgow’s Platform as part of their Eastern Promise festival in October, and Downie hopes to take it to the Edinburgh Fringe in August.

“Doing the performance at Platform was really useful,” he says. “Until you get up and perform in front of people, you really don’t know what things will be like, and this seems particularly true with a solo performance even though I hadn’t thought about it before. Your live relationship, apart from with your own imaginative world, is with the audience and this helped me see where it had got to and what still needed to be done.”

Like Downie, audiences may have the idea of Achilles as a brave hero challenged through the piece.

“There’s something in the characters here that is very universal and speaks to something that’s in me, and probably in all of us,” he says. “His rage at the killing of his best friend, his failure to face his grief, and his bloody revenge have always struck me as deeply disturbing and at the same time deeply human.

“I knew that it told of something in me that I didn’t want to think about, didn’t want to be reminded of. When that happens, as an artist it’s a place I know I should go and investigate further.”

“Achilles is essentially about what happens when you don’t allow yourself to feel and how that can turn into a kind of curdled rage,” he continues. “That’s almost unbearable to feel for long without having someone to blame and attack – and that process, for me, is the heart of the piece.”

January 24 to 27, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, 7.30pm, £14.50, £10 concs, (preview Jan 23, all tickets £10). Tel: 0141 429 0022.

January 30, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 9pm, £14, £9 to £11 concs. Tel: 0131 228 1404.