Review: The Tragedy of Socrates (Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble)

Rob Pensalfini (front) and Rebecca Murphy (behind) in rehearsals for the staged reading of The Tragedy of Socrates

Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble continued their commitment to supporting new Queensland works of theatre in presenting a staged reading of The Tragedy of Socrates, a play in development by playwright, musician, and QSE Core Ensemble actor Silvan Rus.

Five years after the surrender of ancient Athens in the cataclysmic Peloponnesian War, Athenian philosopher Socrates is charged with disbelieving the gods and corrupting the youth of his city. Rus’ verse adaptation of Plato’s philosophical dialogues portrays Socrates’ defence in court, his imprisonment, and his death by hemlock. Once in full fruition, the work will show ancient battle, the entangling of international alliances, and a warrior whose enterprise of truth should coin him as the last Athenian.

Directed by Shane Pike, The Tragedy of Socrates was brought to life in the intimate theatre space of the Geoffrey Rush Drama Studio at The University of Queensland by QSE Core Ensemble actors Rebecca Murphy, Ellen Hardisty, Dudley Powell, Angus Thorburn, and John Siggers all playing multiple roles. Simple elements of costuming were used to make changes of character clear, and props and set pieces were used sparingly but to great effect.

The Tragedy of Socrates playwright Silvan Rus

The Tragedy of Socrates playwright Silvan Rus proved himself a master of lyrical language in this work, and the amount of meticulous research and understanding incorporated into the play was clear. Lyrical dialogue and clever, funny wordplay made the big philosophical ideas about justice, piety, and democracy not only accessible but also pleasant to listen to.

Being a staged reading, all actors read from their scripts but their fundamental understanding of the poetry and rhythm of the language was obvious, and made the dialogue easy and pleasant to listen to. QSE Artistic Director Rob Pensalfini gave a particularly memorable performance as Socrates, assured and defiant.

The Tragedy of Socrates is an exceptionally promising play in development, one of those things that become more impressive the more you consider them, and I look forward to seeing it fully realised.

Read more about Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble on their website.


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