EFR - Reviews of Arcadia

Arcadia

Tue 16th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Hannah Sanderson

at 02:52 on 22nd Aug 2016

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Tom Stoppard’s witty drama about growing up and literary and scientific breakthroughs is an interesting show to see. It is performed simply and sweetly by the Pembroke Players and I doubt that anyone can leave the theatre without a warm feeling.

The play is split between the 1800s and the modern day (1990s). It revolves around an upper-class family’s interactions and a group of modern scholars attempted investigations into their lives. The production team should be congratulated on creating a modest but totally realistic set. The main centre-piece is a table piled high with books which immediately draws the audience into schoolroom atmosphere and keeps them grounded there for the entirety of the show. A particularly clever element of this show is how the actors show the passing of time through the adding of different objects to the table.

All the actors show a deep understanding of Stoppard’s witty, almost Wildean humour which helps to bring out extra comedy in the performance. Thomasina (Daisy Jones) shines above the rest, her engagement with the script is a delight to watch as are her many varied facial expressions. Her energy is spot on from the beginning while the other actors take a while to really get going. Once they do, however, the show goes from strength to strength. Lady Croom (Helen Vella Taylor) plays an excellent sneering and arrogant hostess whose quelling looks make even the audience shrink back a little. Xanthe Burdett who plays Hannah/Noakes is to be commended for her ability to play two very different characters. Her portrayal of Hannah is more convincing however and she confidently plays the down-to-earth character among her more excitable scholars.

In this production the women are definitely the stars of the show and their characterisation often overshadows their male counterparts. Os Leanse's (Chater/Valentine) anger however is very convincing and he certainly injects a lot feeling into his characterisation of both parts.

The lighting and sound effect however leaves quite a bit to be desired, they are overly simplistic and often unnecessary. The show also needs more verve at points as the more slow-moving parts can begin to drag if the actors are downbeat. As someone totally new to Stoppard’s play this adaptation can also get confusing at points and it appears to jump around a lot with little explanation.

This is a very interesting play performed by a group of talented actors and it certainly made me want to discover more about it following the performance. I would recommend it to both newcomers and die-hard Stoppard fans as an enjoyable and heart-warming show.

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Naoise Murphy

at 09:26 on 22nd Aug 2016

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Sex, maths, botany and literature combine to produce a surprisingly enjoyable piece of theatre in Pembroke Players’ production of Tom Stoppard’s 'Arcadia'. Right from its fantastic opening line, the play sparkles with wit and mischievousness, brought to life by a talented cast and production team.

In the early 1800s, young Thomasina Coverly is learning, simultaneously, about algebra and ‘carnal embrace.’ Ably portrayed by Daisy Jones, it does not take too much of a stretch of the imagination to see her as a precocious thirteen year old. Her charismatic performance and clear delivery make the first scene a joy to watch, as she converses with her tutor Septimus, another admirable performance from Will Peck. His wry tone and wonderful comic timing were perfectly suited to the role - part Byronic hero, part Wildean scoundrel.

From the second scene, which shifts to the present day, the pace of the performance slows down somewhat. A group of academics are sitting around the same table, looking for evidence to support their half-baked theories. Bernard is convinced that Byron fought a duel at the house, prompting his flight to the continent, and enlists the reluctant help of Hannah, another Romantic specialist. Colin Rothwell, playing Bernard, takes a while to warm up in his performance. Once he does, however, his portrayal of the self-obsessed academic is enjoyable to watch. Another standout performance of the show comes from Xanthe Burdett, who plays Hannah with intelligence and wit. As a mockery of academia, these present-day scenes are hugely entertaining.

Helen Vella Taylor gives a great performance as the drawling aristocrat Lady Croom, and Os Leanse, Elise Limon and Harrison MacNeill all provide solid support in smaller roles. The set – a table littered with books and random objects – is, in its simplicity, unexpectedly effective. Layers are built up gradually throughout the play, emphasising the intermingling of past and present – a Mac, a tortoise, coffee mugs, letters, garden plans and books passed down through the years. The time periods merge even further towards the end as characters from each era share the stage. This leads to a beautifully choreographed conclusion, complete with starry backdrop, candlelight and a graceful waltzing couple.

Lighting and sound could be improved – the quality does not always match up to the acting ability of the cast. Despite this, directors Cassia Price and Nathan Miller have created a truly excellent piece of theatre in ‘Arcadia.’ The serious moments are thought-provoking and emotionally affecting, and the comedy is perfectly pitched, provoking hysterical laughter at times from an appreciative audience.

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