Brenton looks at the last few days of his life when the tide turned against the wily old goat and he was put on trial for impiety and corrupting the minds of Athenian youth.
When he is condemned by his wilfully argumentative nature, his best friend Euthyphro (Robert Mountford) abandons him, and his wife and mistress are powerless to defend him.
On a simple but effective set of pillars and a frieze, the superb cast of four play out the final hours with exceptional skill and wit.
Jonathan Hyde’s Socrates simply cannot help himself from arguing a philosophical point, even if it leads to his death.
A man of means, he dresses like a homeless person as an anti-fashion statement, in contrast with his loving and respectable wife Xanthippe (Hannah Morrish) and high-born mistress (Sophie Ward) who has sacrificed her maternal feelings for political service.
Sharp exchanges are deftly played, but the mood darkens after the appearance of his inner demon which leads Socrates to reject help from a gaoler who was bribed to help him escape.
The echoes in contemporary society (war, plague, populism) are subtly embedded within the waspish dialogue that comes across like a collaboration between Aristophanes and James Graham.
Very nice work.
Jermyn Street Theatre, London, until July 2. Tickets: 020 7287 2875