Theatre at UBC

Arcadia
by Tom Stoppard

Date 9 - 19 March 2005 Venue Frederic Wood Theatre Reviewer Jane Penistan


 

Director Dennis Garnhum Scenography Ron Fedoruk Costumes Alison Green Sound Nathaniel Wong Stage Manager Diana Domm

 

 


Arcadia Set

Arcadia is a complex, beautiful and humourous play. The action shuttles between 1809 to the present day. First performed in 1993 in England, this remains a present-day theatre gem. Stoppard's wit, insight, social comment, and meticulous writing keep an audience engaged throughout. Clearly defined characters are a gift to actors.

Ron Fedoruk's set is elegant and pleasing. Like the text, there are no unnecessary pieces. The wardrobe department dresses the cast in pleasing and appropriate colour and style.

For the most part the actors are more comfortable in the modern day scenes than in the nineteenth-century episodes, with the exception of Torrance Coombs, who plays Septimus Hodge. This young man seems perfectly at home with his role as a tutor in an elegant country house, his clandestine journalism as a reviewer of poetry for The Piccadilly Recreation, and his ability to charm and disarm his employers. His pupil, Thomasina Coverly (Anastasia Filipczuk) is an intellectual, observant, enthusiastic adolescent. We witness her wakening awareness of her transition from child to maturity. Of the other regency characters, Ashley O'Connell as Richard Noakes presents a delightful cameo of a subservient craftsman.

In the present day Sidley Park, the journalist Hanna Jarvis (Niki Brown) and the aspiring but not first-class academic Bernard Nightingale (David Newham) manage jealous verbal sparring matches, echoing those between Septimus and the would-be poet Ezra Chater (Christopher Murray) of the earlier period. Hanna is a forthright career woman, and Bernard a passionate academic, avidly researching the life of Byron. Hanna is writing a history of the landscaping of the extensive parkland of the historic house.

 

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Arcadia at Frederic Wood Bernard, like Septimus, reviews for London periodicals. He has trashed Hanna's previous publication but needs her aid in his quest for authentication of Lord Byron's visit to the house. The present-day Coverly children are Chloe, a delightful late teenager (Kerry Duff) and Valentine, a university science student. Bernard's reading of his flawed paper on Byron provides a gloriously laughable incident.

The Coverlys and the visitors try to unravel the mysteries of the disappearance of the unsuccessful poet Ezra Chater, Lord Byron's precipitous departure from England in 1809, and that of the hermit in the hermitage, which the estate planning Lady Coverly said "Must be found." The first is found in a record, that of Lord Byron remains unknown. The incredible discovery in Thomasina's exercise books containing the advanced mathematics that are now calculated by computer provides the final solution.

The lighting and anachronistic music contribute much to the dreamlike quality of the closing scene, where both generations of the family appear in the changeless schoolroom of Sidley Park.

2005 Jane Penistan

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