Yannis Simonides as Socrates. Pic Benelux Photos

“True wisdom is in knowing that you know nothing.”

Last night, I was very privileged to be present at a rare gift at the Seymour Centre’s York Theatre. It is a rare gift to see a consummately performed, English translated version of Plato’s play, APOLOGY OF SOCRATES.

This piece has been performed in 14 countries and is scheduled to tour the U.S., Russia, China, South Africa and New Zealand. Through the efforts of Theatro Productions, who first saw it at the Acropolis, and Elliniko Theatro, embracing the Greek Theatre of New York and Greek Theatre International and promoting Greek Culture worldwide through Hellenic Theatre, we got  lucky!

The space went dark, a gong was sounded and suddenly this apparently wizened little figure capered down the stairs beside the audience, gibbering and giggling in Greek in a  Socratic mask onto the stage. After ceremoniously setting the mask against the back of the stage to watch, he proceeded to wheedle and wander, to worry and warn and eventually waylay the audience until eventually, after a masterclass in acting, and classic Greek logic, we were won over. (Effortlessly, we were in the palm of his hand, sometimes literally!)

His characters were the essence of Greek personality and made me think of Zorba, his performance reminded me of the best of Topol, Hayes Gordon and Lee Strasberg. It made sense when one reads in the program that he trained at  Athens College and Yale University and has served as professor and chair of the New York University School of the Arts Drama Department, and that the Director, Loukas N. Skipitaris also trained with New York’s finest, and appeared in the original Broadway production of Zorba!

In the final moments, as we watched Socrates waft up the other audience stairs we didn’t want him to leave and remembered his exhortation when negotiating his sentence in classic Greek style: “Do I not deserve the same three meals as an Olympian? – He makes you happy because of his victories, I make you happy because of your own!” He certainly did and he certainly does!

There is only one performance remaining in Sydney. This will take place tomorrow night (March 16) at the Factory Theatre in Marrickville at 5pm.  For this performance, the piece will be performed in Greek. Try and catch it.