The Tragedy of Socrates is an original play on a classical theme presented by well regarded Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble. Nearly everyone knows the name of Socrates and has some idea of his place in the development of logic and western philosophy. The play explores the fact that he was put on trial and executed for his search for truth. In the era of fake news and fake accusations of fake news, this is a theme worth exploring.
Founded in 2001, the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble has built up a reputation for its performances and its work within the community engaging in programs to bring Shakespeare to a wider audience and to use the plays to empower the disenfranchised, such as its programs within prisons. While the focus is on Shakespeare, it also looks at creating some original works, such as The Tragedy of Socrates.
Photo of the Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble practicing Shakespearean sword play at The Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio courtesy of UQ
Socrates is often described as an enigmatic figure. As he didn't write anything himself, he is only known from how others described him. This includes Plato who not only made him the great hero of truth, even writing books in the name Socrates to express his own ideas, through to Aristophanes's who made him more of a clown in the play Clouds.
One thing that defines Socrates life is his trial and death, where he is known to have stood up to the authorities, not for the truth as such, but for his belief in the search for and exploration of truth. This was what he valued more than his own life.
About the Play
This 'stage reading' of the work in development is a great opportunity to enjoy a play cheaply and also see the creative process in action. I had an opportunity to talk to playwright Silvan Rus while he was working on the play. Silvan has been with the Ensemble since 2013, and is one of the standout performers in the group. He also manages the Shakespeare Beyond program which works with people that theatre doesn't normally engage with to give them a voice through the works of Shakespeare.
Sylvan Rus along with Rob Pensalfini performing Henry IV part 1
For Sylvan, writing the play was about exploring the character of Socrates, and the logic of putting his beliefs and his pursuit of truth above his own life. A theme that should give us a personal call to action as we live in a world where we have constant streams of information but little interest in searching for the truth. We seem to take much of what we are told to be true or least not bother to verify it. Thousands of years later we may still have a lot learn from the great figures of antiquity.
The cast will include Ellen Hardisty, Rebecca Murphy, Rob Pensalfini, Dudley Powell, John Siggers, Angus Thorburn. Direction by Shane Pike.
When and where
The show will go for 4 days at 7:30 pm at The Geoffrey Rush Drama Study which is located at the University of Queensland's St Lucia Campus. Tickets are $20, with $15 concession tickets available.
There will be some special events as part of the performance. On Wednesday, November 13th there will be a Q&A and Gala event, which includes a panel session with playwright Silvan Rus, Paul Eliadis Chair of Classics and Ancient History, Professor Alastair Blanshard. Also included are free drinks and nibbles after the show. On November 15th there will also be the 2020 season launch, and the opportunities to mingle with the cast and company along with free refreshments.
Driving to the University of Queensland is pretty easy and there is plenty of parking at the university, which should cost you around $5 for casual parking. You can also go by public transportation. This includes ferries, which are a little slow, and the much faster buses from the city. Of course, you can cycle, including using CityCycle.
Before and After the Show
The University of Queensland is home to a range of dining venues. I like the Saint Lucy Caffe e Cucina next to the tennis courts, but there are several places close to the venue, ranging from fast food through to some nice sushi and pizza restaurants. For drinks, the main option is the Redroom which has a nice student bar vibe.