The Clouds @ The New Theatre

Country bumpkin Strepsiades dares to join Socrates and his band of intellectuals at ‘The Thinkery’ in a desperate plight to learn how to argue his way out of his debt. However, proving to be an ignoramus in the learning of essential facts such as the distance of a flea’s jump and the correct gender of a basin, Strepsiades sends his delinquent son, Pheidippides in his place, who learns to argue a little too well for Strepsiades liking, much to the enjoyment of the Clouds, who turn out to be the most important teachers of all.

It is tough to bring a satire from two thousand years ago into the present day, making it both relevant and amusing and Michael Moore did well to bring the action up to date with an elaborate set, vibrant lighting effects and some modern comical moments that also stayed true to the humour of the original play.

Some difficulties of age differences were overcome by some effective and innovative casting as Lucy Preston, playing the young Pheidippides, dressed in brightly coloured boxers and baseball cap certainly looked like a young boy stood next to Strepsiades (Alex MacGillvray).

In a play with so many monologues it is difficult for the action not to become a little static and although some elements of satire against Socrates, such as his adamant worship of the drunken clouds were well portrayed, perhaps more could have been made of this. However, of course one of the main targets of satire in Greek theatre is the audience and the parts in which they are ridiculed were amusingly and successfully executed.

Sarah Hall

ArtsArts Reviews
4 Comments on this post.
  • Tom
    19 March 2009 at 20:46
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    This is a review trying very hard to find positives in a weak, weak show. The play simply wasn’t directed – it just happened in a sprawling mess that was as long as it was boring.

    Many of the actors should, however, be praised for their performances. But with a script that needed drastic editing, and seemingly without the energy or direction they required, the cast were unable to deliver. The audience were simply not entertained.

    • Sam
      2 November 2010 at 01:47
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      What a horrificly misguided comment from ‘Tom.’ I attended a performance of The Clouds and was thoroughly entertained. The script was vibrant, and there was clear evidence of direction in both the acting and the transformation of such an ancient play onto this small stage, pushing it into the modern age. With what little resources that are available to the New Theatre, it is a tough task for any director to put on a play that will match the grand heights of the professional stage. I felt that this production of The Clouds was excellent, and nowhere near a ‘sprawling mess’. Whatever production ‘Tom’ was watching, it was certainly not this one.
      Perhaps ‘Tom’ should attend the Theatre Royal or somewhere similar if he wishes for a top-class, budget-free performance. To put down a student performance of a play that was transformed onto a modern stage with consumate ease and professionalism in such a degrading and frankly insulting manner makes a mockery of those who put so much time and effort into this production, as well as making a mockery of the New Theatre itself. I wouldn’t be surprised he if he demanded his money back at the end to further spit on the Theatre’s credibility. He would do well to stay away from our Theatre in the future and let someone else occupy his seat.

  • Not misguided at all
    2 November 2010 at 17:00
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    Sorry to burst your bubble Sam but more of the audience who saw the clouds than you would care to admit would agree with Tom. I went to see the play with several friends. This was partly because I have enjoyed New Theatre plays in the past, particularly the excellent Habeas Corpus and partly because several of our friends were involved with both the acting and behind the scenes.

    For me, the main problem was with the attempt to translate the setting from ancient Greece to the modern day. I felt that this didn’t work at all and constantly jarred throughout the play. It made no sense to me at all to try and do so because it was so at odds with the rest of the play. My friends agreed and we all thought it would have been much better if it had been set in the original setting.

    I tried hard to ignore it and to focus on the play but I found it dull. It didn’t seem to be the fault of the actors but something fundamentally was wrong and it just didn’t come together as a performance.

    I considered commenting at the time and then didn’t. I wouldn’t want to be the first to bring it up now, but since someone else already has I thought I’d add my comment.

    I will sign off by saying that I would much prefer for the plays at the New Theatre to push the boundaries of what people may or may not enjoy. I think it is preferable to risk some people disliking a play by taking a chance than for everyone simply to find it mediocre.

    That said, they took a gamble with this one and my own opinion and that of my friends, it really did not pay off.

  • Sam
    3 November 2010 at 15:23
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    ‘Misguided’: I appreciate and understand that people are entitled to their own opinions. Generally, theatre divides opinion, as with every play there are always going to be people who enjoyed a particular performance and those that did not. What I understand from your opening line is that my previous comment stated that the play is not open to any crtics. I strongly refute that, as like I have just mentioned, people are entitled to their own opinions about the production. You have stated your reasons for not enjoying The Clouds, and I respect them. Frankly, I do not see the same things as you did in terms of what was ‘wrong’ with the performance: that is my opinion.
    What I took issue with in my response (i.e describing it as a ‘misguided’ judgement) was ‘Tom”s largely unhelpful and pretentiously-worded comment. It’s people like that that undermine the confidence of the young actors, directors, stage workers etc that keep the New Theatre alive; and I felt that was wrong. His greviances with the play perhaps could have been worded in a less insulting way, i.e not lambasting it as a ‘sprawling mess’. That’s a term available to descriptions of amateur school theatre, and was certainly not applicable to this production of The Clouds. However much I disagree with ‘Tom”s views, he, like you, is entitled to his opinon. My issue, however, was the ease to which he publicly put down the efforts of all those in the play, and that is just not on.

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