ARCADIA is Tom Stoppard’s whip-smart comedy that challenges the dichotomy of logic and emotion via garden design and mathematics, poetry and chaos theory. The Drama Scholars tackled this play with impressive maturity; the dialogue was sharp enough to impress the mathematicians in the audience, the comic timing was impeccable and the tragic climax delivered with elegant restraint.
The play is set in two time periods; the turn of the Nineteenth Century and modern day. The set is common to both, featuring just a table which accumulates props that function in both time periods; both the simple, pared-back staging and precision in the use of the props was essential to the success of the evening. The leads in each of the time periods were played with considerable poise. Max Thomas and Beth Ellison portrayal of the relationship between Thomasina and Septimus, her tutor, was arch, witty but culminated in a tenderness that was very moving indeed; meanwhile Jack Coombs and Katie McCabe played the modern day academics Bernard and Hannah with a terrific combination of insufferable bombast and withering contempt. There was some very enjoyable comedy with Fergus Holland’s playing Ezra Chater with brilliantly pompous bluster and a physical comedy cameo from Lewis Hayward as the socially and physically gauche Mr Noakes. Adding to that was a turn from Lily Talbot, channelling Lady Bracknell as the peacock-befeathered Lady Croom and Liam McKinnes delivering the mathematical content with crystal clarity and super comic timing.
The final scene, where characters from both time periods inhabit the stage together, was beautifully choreographed and led to an understated delivery of the tragic climax to the play. This was a terrific ensemble piece that drew our laughs and then broke our hearts.