During the Iraq War, Captain Robbie Roberts is injured in a spectacular explosion.

As he lies unconscious, his sister Jo — a touching performance by Rachel Chetwynd-Stapylton — reads him passages from The Epic of Gilgamesh, a four-thousand-year old poem from ancient Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq.

Gilgamesh was two-thirds god and one third human — hard to achieve genetically, but obviously some divine creative method was used by his mother, the Goddess Ninsun (excellent Chloe Robinson).

When we first set eyes on him, Gilgamesh is a cruel tyrant, played with smug arrogance by James Roberts. The Gods decide he needs to learn of suffering, and they create a rival, Enkidu, who, after a vicious fight, becomes his greatest friend. From here, writer Jenny Lewis cleverly parallels Gilgamesh’s character-changing shock at Enkidu’s death with Robbie’s horror at having mistakenly shot his Arab friend Karim.

This is an ambitious project for a cast of 14-to-19-year-olds, but the Pegasus Youth Theatre and Youth Dance Company pull it off, thanks to the inspired direction of Yasmin Sidhwa and choreographer Allan Hutson.

The beautiful set, designed by the Pegasus Youth Production Company, is lit in a golden glow, redolent of ancient stones. At the striking opening, gods are sunk into the wall as an immobile frieze, to which they return at the story’s end. The music, created by Anita Daulne with the Afro-pean Choir, adds greatly to the atmosphere, with Daulne’s own voice rising to us from the past in long melancholy phrases. We see the enslaved people building the walls of Uruk and dancing in the market place; we attend a council of the gods and a war council in the modern world. The cast put all this over with verve and lots of action.

The play’s message that peace is better than war is expressed by Enkidu — a fine performance from Sam George. This is a collaborative effort which does the young performers credit, and it can be seen again at The Pegasus on July 21.