Arcadia @ The New Theatre

I never expect to leave the theatre feeling simultaneously enlightened and dumbfouded – however Arcadia achieved just this. This detective story with a twist touches on subjects as diverse as maths, metaphysics, literature and lust, as it follows two sets of academics who, despite living over two centuries apart, embark on individual quests for knowledge. Notions of chaos and disorder begin to surface as the lives of the two sets of characters become increasingly linked, and we start to understand the knowledge we gain over time, lose over time, and the knowledge we’d rather not have at all. So, a light night out at the theatre then…

However, don’t let the evidently complex subject matter jade your view of the play. The play text is sharp and sarcastic, littered with puns and quips that repeatedly raised a smile. The complicated material was grasped by the performers with enthusiasm and conviction; sometimes so much so it seemed to gallop ahead of us, going over my head a little (I am but an Arts student, after all), yet this did not impede on this otherwise engaging piece.

All the actors approached their parts with ease and humour, each creating a rounded, likable character that smoothly swept us through the play. Lauren Grant and Dan Rae-Scott are to be particularly commended for their carefully executed performances of the two Georgian leads. The relationship they portrayed was believable and touching, showing a gradual change in tone as the characters aged over time. Henry Blanchard also gave a sterling performance which was understated, yet clear and effective. Topher Collins’ interpretation was highly comedic, and he executed his lines with near-impeccable timing. Some characters were played more subtly, some more histrionic than others – a mix that could have been tempered slightly to aid credibility, but one that nevertheless made for a varied performance.

The backstage crew certainly went all-out to add depth to this already well thought-out production. Despite the New Theatre’s relatively small size, the set managed to give an impressive feeling of space, both in and outside the living room where all the action was set. The fabulous costumes acted as a distinguishing feature between the two eras. The lighting was pleasingly subtle and nuanced, and the set succeeded in bridging the gap between the two disparate time periods. This both highlighted the chaos escalating throughout, and provided a sense of continuity.

So, whether or not you have a brain capacity to rival Einstein’s, get yourself down to the New Theatre this week for what proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable show. With a fascinating plot that provokes intrigue and curiosity – it’ll definitely get you thinking!

Katie Dolamore

ArtsArts Reviews
3 Comments on this post.
  • William Warren
    25 November 2010 at 23:57
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    The real strength of this play is the juxtaposition within it. The two time periods one looking ahead the other looking back. Bernard’s arrogance and greed with Septimus’ wonder and humility. Valentine’s science with Byron’s poetry and the arts. However as we learn when the glass break or the letters burn we cannot gain things back, poetry, sex, the beauty of fractals, landscape gardening even, all become trivial. Stoppard himself actually wanted people to be given a black coffee with some cream before watching the show, to watch the two mix and refuse to un-mix. Though trivial it is up to us to pursue these differences and juxtapositions, holding two opposing theories realising that everything we know is wrong that makes everything meaningful. Through wonder things cease to be trivial. The reviewer mentioned her bewilderment which it understandable yet really regrettable. We should not watch the play in confusion but be in awe,we should be inspired not intimidated. This is a beautiful play, done beautifully to put it simply.

    I understand this is written like a true luvvie but I bloody love this play. I too am not Einstein (as you can tell by my rambling comment with dire use of grammar and punctuation) yet I urge you all to see this play. The production itself was by no means perfect but It is far too wonderful to be missed. Well done all involved.

  • Alexandra
    26 November 2010 at 01:36
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    I fully agree with the reviewer and think she made some very valid comments. The play is very clever and the juxtaposition of modern and past characters and scenarios adds an interesting dimension to a complex play.

    However, it deals with complex and detailed mathematical, physical and algebraical details and if one does not have a good understanding or capability of/at said subjects it is very difficult to follow and comprehend everything that is being said. The speed at which some of these lines are being spoken makes it even more difficult, particularly in the opening scene. I think this is the point that the reviewer is trying to put across.

    Very well directed, very good technical sides, very well performed and very well reviewed. Go see it!

  • William Warren
    26 November 2010 at 17:03
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    Alexandra I very much agree with you and I would also like to add this a good review Katie, in my first comment I was mostly talking about the play not the production. To be critical of the production itself I did also think some of the lines where lost or rushed. I was a little gutted when at the end of the play the most heart breaking moment of the play was muffled by audience laughter last night. It was disapointing that the subtle twist (if you can call it that) was missed by alot of the new theatre audience laughing rather childishly at waltzing.

    I’m nerdy enough to have understood the references and I understand that some things which aren’t explicit (such as Laplaces Demon) must be bewlidering to those who have never for example studied philosophy (my degree). I think the concepts are actually well explained in the text but a prior knowledge allows you not to think but enjoy.

    If anything I would rather critize the audience than the play. I however do realise that that would be a rather stupid and snobby thing to. I have seen four different productions of this play and have a rather large bias towards this type of theatre.

    I would though suggest that anyone who enjoyed the play look further into it. I know myself that it is a very rewarding experience. The production too was also, in my mind of very high quality. Once again go and see it.

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