The Thinkery

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan, three stars

IT’S definitely summertime, folks – your lunchtime pie and pint at Oran Mor now come with a mini-musical instead of the usual play. First up in this seasonal change of genre is The Thinkery. Written by Brian James O’Sullivan, directed by Stuart Hepburn, it’s based on Aristophanes’ The Clouds – do not fear, however, that it will all be Greek to you... There’s a Glesca’ turn of phrase in the dialogue while the cast of four – led by that past-master of panto-japery, Jimmy Chisholm – are undaunted by high-minded themes of moral philosophy and self-improvement and readily embrace low comedy.

According to the on-stage columns, and the white swagged costumes, we’re in the ancient Greece of Socrates and his seat of learning, The Thinkery. In fact the problems facing Strepsiades (Tom Urie) are recognisably of our own time.

His son Pheidippides (Nathan Byrne) is a waste of space: he squanders money he doesn’t have, is constantly bevvied up, and now there’s an angry loan shark at the door demanding payment. What’s a lonely, widowed father to do? He sends the irresponsible lad for a ‘detox’ – as in life-coaching and habit-changing lessons with Socrates. Six characters and only four performers means there’s some doubling of roles: Sandra McNeeley is both household slave and Strepsiades’ revenant wife – quick-thinking, can-do women, both – while Chisholm combines the menacing loan shark with the lofty, dogmatic Socrates, shifting character in the twitch of an eye patch (creditor-mode) or the donning of an academician’s laurel wreath and playing both for scripted (and unscripted) laughs.

“Never underestimate the power of a rousing melody,” is one supposedly Socratic bon mot and indeed, there are lots of them in this show, all delivered with harmonious gusto by the cast. Maybe not quite The Clouds as Aristophanes intended – but the silver lining is, this perusal of ethical values and moral choices remains entertaining.