The Thinkery

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A Play, a Pie and a Pint
Mini Musical Season
Oran Mor, Glasgow
04-09 June, 2018

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Socrates, as we all know, was a chap given to rumination. He encouraged young men to have contemplative thoughts while musing on the ever changing shapes of clouds. The technical term we use for seeing pictures in otherwise amorphous shapes is pareidolia, appropriately enough from the Greek, para meaning something faulty or wrong and eidolon meaning image or form. According to ancient Athenian playwright Aristophenes, Socrates taught this philosophy at The Thinkery, which does exactly what it says on the amphora.

IMG-7831i.jpgAnd The Thinkery is where young spendthrift Pheidippides finds himself, having fled from a seriously peeved money lender intent on skewering the wastrel debtor, in lieu of payment. Socrates mistakes Pheidippides for a curious student and introduces him to the philosophy of the clouds and the three rules of life. The clouds can speak and offer advice, which is really handy and soon the youth is heading back to Strepsiades, his worried dad, confident he can logic his way out of the family’s liabilities. The mouthy, house slave has her doubts. All depends on whether the stop-out adolescent can become a citizen and take responsibility for his own actions.

Jimmy Chisholm’s Socrates is full to bursting with oratory, striding the stage like a wee colossus then stopping, sandals wide apart, manspreading in his toga, while tipping the audience a knowing wink. Sandra McNeely’s slave provides grounded, streetwise advice to the household and her cloudy Zenobia with the masked, cumulus face attempts to influence her sybarite son from beyond the grave.

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Nathan Byrne’s Pheidippides is gloriously gangly with all the misplaced confidence of youth, glibly avoiding consequences, happy to be a drain on the Bank of Dad. Tom Urie’s Strepsiades doesn’t have his troubles to seek. He does good gloom, missing his dead wife and burdened by worries about his dwindling finances, due to his errant son.

All four actors whether solo or together, are in fine voice when they sing and appear to be enjoying the performance as much as the audience, i.e. a great deal. Brian James O’Sullivan’s funny, musical play is full of delightful, knowing anachronisms (Nike is the god of victory, not trainers). There’s much to enjoy here, from Keystone Cop type chases around the stage, to a misunderstood dialogue between father and son that brings to mind the Abbott and Costello ‘Who’s On First’ routine.  The songs are good and drive the plot which is as relevant today as it was two and a half millennia ago, while Annette Gillies’ set, a collection of flat Ionian columns in front of a screen of moving clouds, captures the classic Hellenic atmosphere simply but perfectly. A super, Glaswegian Greek comedy, bearing gifts.

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