Department of Greek & Latin


2023 Plato's Symposium

2023 Plato's Symposium

On 8th-10th February 2023, UCL’s Greek & Latin performed Plato’s Symposium and hosted a series of public lectures (available below) as well as study guide materials on the text and its reception.

2023 Creative Team: Reyna Jani (Director), Amilia Turnbull (Producer), and Patrick O’Malley (Dramaturg).

A video of the performance is available upon request.


This year's Classical Play at UCL's Bloomsbury Theatre was funny, interesting and innovative for a number of reasons - firstly in its choice of text, Plato's Symposium, a dramatic text, sure, though in a rather different way from what is normally put on, being neither a tragedy nor a comedy. The humoristic and at times sarcastic tone undercutting the whole production together the theatrically effective choice of an all-women cast to dramatise an all-men party spoke volumes of the many (creatively) interesting ways in which this production picks up on some of the most topical issues around the Greek and Latin 'classics' and their turbulent reception history as well as 'status'. Envy, jelousy, love, friendship as well as the complex ideas surrounding these themes are all there in the beautiful translation by Christopher Gill though presented with subtle irony, in a sort of in-and-out of character mode that while discussing the ethics of desire also questions the ways in which this is done. 
- Dr Giovanna Di Martino: A. G. Leventis Research Fellow (UCL) 

This is a party any woman would want to gate-crash... I saw Plato come alive," roared my friend as we walked back to Euston Square, still vibrating with emotion after an evening with "Socrates and friends" — all of whom, in a very successful twist, were impersonated by women. I couldn't have put it better myself: everything just worked well in the Symposium, starting from the decision to stage it as a theatrical performance. In fact, I often surprised myself thinking that, paradoxically, Plato's philosophical dialogue lent itself to be recast as a piece of modern drama in a more seamless way than many Greek tragedies and comedies. Clever directorial choices and unfailing acting panache were backed by sleek costumes and minimalist scenography, though with very welcome concessions to playfulness, fun and even satire. Although the actors did not swerve from Plato's text, their drinking-and-talking party felt timely, thought-provoking and occasionally heartrending — quite unlike the echo of a faded ancient feast. 
- Dr Maddalena Italia: Leverhulme Research Fellow 

This year’s UCL Greek Play was not a ‘play’ in the narrow sense and rather a creative dramatic adaptation of Plato’s Symposium. The wonderful performance showed the gripping character of this dialogue and the timelessness of the issues discussed, and it enabled audiences to experience how engaging philosophy can be. 
- Prof Gesine Manuwald: Professor of Latin; Head of Department 

The creative team had recast Plato's Symposium as a dramatic performance. The stage adaptation was engaging and successful, despite the challenges posed by a work with a number of long and complex speeches, transformed by the injection of physical theatre and enhanced by excellent costumes, music, lighting and staging. An all-female cast playing male (and one female) roles was one of the play's 'defamiliarizing' features that provoked the audience to imagine what the party that evening at Agathon's was really like. Actors and the other creatives had worked hard to embody the relationships, erotic and intellectual, between all the characters, and the interpretation brought out longing, jealousy, impatience, irritation, competitiveness, as well as love and friendship. While the words and ideas were Plato's, this play was a clever reimagining that brought new life and meaning to a classic work. 
- Fiachra Mac Góráin: Associate Professor of Classics 


Have you enjoyed the 2023 Plato’s Symposium? Have you any recommendations, thoughts to share or questions to pose? Drop us a line!

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More about the UCL Classical Play

This is now one of the most famous and long-running commitments to the modern production of ancient drama in the world. It attracts large audiences, many of whom are young people studying classical drama at school or university, and is regularly reviewed in the national press. Ticket prices are kept low. 

The production is managed by students in the Department of Greek and Latin, with help and advice from staff. A number of former students involved in the classical play have gone on to careers in drama. Students choose a director and a producer in the autumn: the title of the play for the following year is announced in late October (and is advertised on this website).

The Department of Greek and Latin is committed to bringing these productions to the widest possible audience. For each production we run a programme of lectures and workshops, free and open to the public, which are run by leading academics and theatre experts from across the UK. For the benefit of schools and colleges we also create a web-page of study materials on ancient drama in general, and with special focus on the current year's performance.