Cast & Crew
|Review of Arcadia by playwright Wendy Lewis.
(Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly 11th July, 2009)
Arcadia Blissful pastoral countryside. Purity. Contentment. As if!
This is a highly intellectual multi-layered play where Byron, Mandelbrot, iterative mathematics, music and steam pumps are tossed around with gay abandon with an emphasis on literature, maths and sex. Are the three connected? Very definitely, says Mr Stoppard. This production has the maths and poetry all wrapped up. But the sex is harder to fathom… Hannah, the no-nonsense academic with little interest in things or people outside her field of interest, is well portrayed in Act One. She is brittle, easy to take offence, virtually unapproachable. Yet she seems to have all the men in the house hungering after her. Even poor little Gus!
Bernard enters the scene. An academic too on his own personal quest. Sparks fly between them or at least from Bernard to Hannah but it’s somehow unbelievable. As soon as he strides in the door Bernard is deceitful, arrogant and smarmy. In what way are we or Hannah supposed to find him attractive? Sparks fly between Chloe and Bernard too (or at least one way) but Bernard doesn’t seem interested at all. Poor Chloe doesn’t have much to do except sit sweetly and pander to Bernard’s enormous ego. Whereas in her earlier incarnation, Lady Crome is wonderful. Haughty and witty, so self-assured and très très elegant!
Val is an intelligent, perceptive character. Dark and brooding. Resentful perhaps of Bernard’s shallow view of worldly success? Or of Hannah’s ability to walk away from Sidley Park any time she chooses while he is stuck there? His constant physical advances to Hannah don’t ring true. Not sure what to make of his initial “Are you queer?” to Bernard. Or what Stoppard meant by it either.
Septimus and Thomasina have an engaging and true relationship. Septimus has some of the best lines to utter, which doesn’t hurt, and he does an eloquent job. He is a nicely balanced mix of opportunist and decent chap; wry, youthful yet possessing wisdom far beyond his years. Thomasina is an absolute delight. Innocent, bright, brimming with potential and on the brink of adulthood which, as we tragically learn, will never be fulfilled. But it was very disturbing to see them waltzing to 4/4 time. The music started with 3/4 time. What happened?!
Ezra is a wonderful ruddy-faced poet/botanist/scallywag. Most amusing to see him struggling with the exact import of Septimus’ wicked words.
The set is simple and apt, expressing the symmetry and order that crumble as things gets complicated. The big central table takes on a character of its own, becoming increasingly messy, weighed down by all the things of history: the books, the cups of tea, the decanter of wine and, of course, the turtle.
Stoppard is one for the head, not the heart. He is not a purveyor of the “magic” of theatre but the final scene with past and present melding together is truly magical. This is a play of such depth that the programme notes could go on for days…an absorbing night’s theatre that demands the audience sit up, pay attention to every little detail and figure it out!
Review by playwright and economist Das
Star of the Sea Theatre, Manly. Sunday 19th July, 2009
It was a nice production. Wonderful play and your staging flowed nicely between the past and the present. Acting was good - we thought that especially Tomasina, Bernard, Valentine and Hannah were terrific.
Only suggestion would be to do the second half except for the final scene (where past and present come together) a little faster with more energy. The last scene should be almost elegiac.
|Arcadia photographed by Paul Lorger and John Reeves|