SCENE: Ancient Athens. Socrates, surrounded by his students, is in mid-flow...
SOCRATES: Remember what is unbearable to do is also unbearable to speak of.
AGONISED CRITIC: But Socrates, if a play is so mystifyingly misguided and shoddily executed that a critic awards one star, shouldn’t that critic explain why?
S: By Heraclitus! What did you see?
AC: Well, Socrates, it’s actually about you. William Lyons has taken Aristophanes’s ancient satire ‘The Clouds’…
S: Seriously? The one about Strepsiades and his son signing up for my school despite being thick as pig-shit, misunderstanding my teaching and using it for their own base, corrupt ends? In 2013? I mean, that play came last in the 423BC play competition.
AC: Quite. Lyons ties it to the Greek economic crisis and Britain’s education system – learning for the sake of a job and all that – but it’s a real muddle. He’s also spliced in bits of your teaching from Plato’s ‘Dialogues’. There’s a five-minute lecture on the Parable of the Cave and a convoluted debate between Reason and Persuasion.
S: Bugger me with a radish. Is it at least well directed?
AC: I’m afraid not, Mr S. There are lots of 30-second scene changes despite there being no set; the three-strong chorus sings awful, atonal chants; and the acting is the worst you’ll find in London. Plus, it’s inexcusably patronising about the working class. What should I do?
S: That’s not really how the Socratic method works, son. Oh fuck it. Banish the poets.
AC: Can we at least keep Simon Stephens?
S: Pass me the hemlock.
AC: Give us a sip.
By Matt Trueman