Socrates and his Clouds

Katerina Angelopoulou

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

Average User Rating

3.9 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:3
  • 4 star:5
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|12
1 person listening
Guillermo

Thank God I didn't read this before booking my ticket! Where were you during the play, Matt? In the toilets?? I can only describe this review as the result of a massive mental constipation. I enjoy the play as it was and I believe it was fair to what they advertised, it was well directed and the acting was good throughout the play. I will recommend it.

Louise

Don't really understand where this reviewer is coming from. Found the device of the chorus really successful. Have told other people to go see!

Eric

As a theatre-maker it is reviews like this that get me nervous. I saw the show because I have a personal interest in classics, but I brought along mates who don't, and they liked it well-enough. When I'm writing a show that I have spent years thinking about or working on, it is my worst fear that someone will come in and just dismiss it utterly like this without even bothering to look beyond personal taste. The reviewer has written his response in some kind of dialectic, but...the play strayed very far from this classical method. So? I actually wonder...did we see the same piece? I think someone else has mentioned that this seemed really surprising to them because it didn't really seem to hit many of the actual points for discussion that this play is aiming to rouse up.

Denise

As a retired actress, I am able to see many shows. Perhaps because I am not a very young audience-member, I do not know what the very young like. But I saw that the theatre on the evening I was there had rather a lot of young people watching. And, it seemed to me, liking the show. To my taste, this was an interesting production. It was not perfect--and no production is--but it was very well-done and polished. I agree that the stage was a bit sparse for the play, but the theatre is so small that I cannot imagine that the bigger sets of plays like Mother Adam could have accommodated the larger cast. The set was not, ultimately, a problem for me at all. The Gregorian near-harmonies in the play were beautiful. They reminded me very much of Greek Orthodox music. In fact, I believed them to have an almost dithyrambic quality. Are we British missing the point about music in theatre? This is a Greek play afterall. Set in a Greek context.

Jermyn Regular

Am a regular patron of the Jermyn Street theatre. I found that this show was what I expected of the theatre: really high-quality Off-West End theatre. The music was really rather beautiful, to my taste. Also thought the acting was bang-on.

Denny

I was just in London for the weekend from the U.S. and had read about this play online in Timeout. I got tickets before reading this review, and I'm glad that I did because I find that this is non-representative of the play that I saw. The piece was not gut-grippling funny, but I didn't expect that it would be. I expected, as someone down here has mentioned, a serio-comedy. I think the reviewer seems to have missed the point about this piece. It was not a version of the original made into a modern context; I thought it was more of a nod to the original with a decided detour. It is a really smart interrogation of world politics. As a non-European who only reads about what is happening in Europe, I enjoyed seeing this conflict play out through theatre. I would not have had an opportunity to see this expressed through this medium otherwise. If I knew more people in London, I would have recommended it to to them to see. I'm a high school teacher, and I think that this is a really useful play for provoking thought. Above the level of my students, but I could see that there would be college students who would be getting a lot from this. 'Cheerio,' Denny.

Ellie

Don't usually feel bothered to comment on an article like this, but I have to say the 1 star is proerly shocking. I would say I see a play a month with my mates who are into theatre, and this is a lot better than a number of things I've seen that were at much bigger theatres. Okay, the style, with music but not being a musical is not to everyone's taste? And maybe the reviewer does not like this sort of thing, but I'd say that it was definitely worth a watch.

van

Saw it tonight. Bought tickets before reading this review and so was properly surprised when I saw it and realised it wasn't what this guy has said? It may not be for everyone's taste because mixing philosophy and theatre is not a really mainstream concept, but I thought it was an interesting piece anyway.

curt

Thought this was a great example of dialectic. Really nice direction. Don't get what this reviewer is on about? I told other people to go see.

Elissa

Thought it was very well-performed. I went to see this play because I have seen Miss Theocharidou's other plays before. I found the direction to be witty. It wasn't a farce; it wasn't a comedy. It was a serio-comedy. Just like it was advertised...with music. Incidental music.

Jenny

Umm....this wasn't the play I saw. I was there opening night, and I found the play to be a really clever platform for the discussion of the economic crisis.

yasmine

I would like to say that I find this review utterly distasteful. To make such an overt, flipping dismissal of a play without actually entertaining any direct criticism is both insulting to the theatrical medium and also utterly unfair to the play. The script is not revolutionary; the original play is problematic. It offers a modern interpretation for the relationship between reason and persuasion as they relate to the European economic crisis. It is a radical reinterpretation of Aristophane's work. It is not an adaptation.