How can one begin to describe Arcadia? Widely regarded as Tom Stoppard’s best play, it encompasses themes such as science and philosophy, love and death, chaos and order and the uncertainty of knowledge, not to mention the clash between classicism and romanticism in garden design.
But don’t let this put you off. Despite the subject matter Arcadia is far from high-brow.
Dialogue is accessible and compelling and there are plenty of laugh out loud moments.
The drama takes place in a country estate in the early 19th century and the present day.
In 1809 Thomasina Coverley (Molly Hemsley), 13 years old and already a mathematics protege, spars intellectually with her tutor Septimus Hodge (Simon Meeson), a friend of Lord Byron’s about passion and thermodynamics, while they and other characters in the house haunt modern day researchers attempting to unravel their past.
Dialogue of such intensity and fervour requires a deft directorial touch and we are in safe hands with Lita Booker.
A deceptively minimalistic stage set sustains the illusion as past and present segue effortlessly into each other.
Arcadia is a play that demands an awful lot from its cast and they all deliver, with particularly outstanding performances by the two leads, as well as Jane Brooman, Stephen Whitehead and Leon Hillier.
Stoppard’s skill is in evoking a wide range of emotions in the audience, which never jar.
The play is both funny and poignant, thought provoking yet accessible.
The Stables has set the bar high with recent productions and Arcadia vaults over it with consummate ease.