ARCADIA. To 16 November.


by Tom Stoppard

Royal Theatre Northampton To 26 October 2002
Mon-Sat 7.30pm not 21 October Mat 19,24 October 2.30pm
Signed 22 October
then Salisbury Playhouse 31 October-16 November
Mon-Wed 7.30pm Thu-Sat 8pm Mat 7,9,14,16 November 2.30pm
Audio-described 14 2.30pm
Runs 3hr 5min One interval

TICKETS 01604 624811 (Northampton)
01722 320333 (Salisbury)
Review Timothy Ramsden 15 October

Understanding direction and ace central performances in one of Stoppard’s finest plays.Stoppard’s play, which gives the Latin tag ‘Et in Arcadia ego’ possible new identity as a line from someone’s CV, receives a fine new production. It’s heady stuff, both cerebral- multi-faceted ideas spring back and forth between c1810 and circa now – and a delirium of love and sex.

In a large Derbyshire country house, neo-classic cool is buffeted by romanticism. A ground-forcer (‘Culpability Noakes’) plans to turn the elegant estate into a tumble of gothic wilderness and forest wild. Meanwhile the Coverly child-genius (given the frank moves and tones of innocence by Holly Radford) reaches towards conceptualising a map of the universe’s future.

But wild-cards like sex and death spoil the calculations. Present-day aristo Valentine’s trying a similar kind of mapping speeded by computer. Tobias Menzies’ remarkable performance catches Valentine’s brightness and his class’s polite assurance and casual elegance in confident gestural speech, yet shows genuine, restrained hurt when visiting academic Nightingale savages him in debate.

Samantha Holland is equally splendid as the 19th century Lady of the Manor, her effortlessly commanding tones and breeding enabling her – just – to keep control when her passions start boiling and bubbling. The intellectual aristocracy’s represent by warring modern academics Hannah and Bernard, she forever debunking his excitable Byron scholarship: the scenes between these two play with effortless beauty, thanks to a pair of finely understanding characterisations.

On a set which cunningly suggests spacious elegance beyond the means of Northampton’s modestly-sized stage, Rupert Goold’s production is rock-solid on Stoppard’s debate on free will, knowledge, arts v sciences, predictability and purpose v the randomness of events (reflected in our clear, then partial, awareness of plot developments) – and the way human egos hinder the creation of Arcadia. It also gives value to the play’s emotionally direct moments: none more than the closing image of two couples from different ages waltzing united against fate as a single candle burns centrally, lighting up humanity’s tenuous progress against dissolution.

There are times, earlier on, when humour might have been given more space. But it’s a small drawback in a fine revival with excellent central performances.

Thomasina Coverly: Holly Radford
Septimus Hodge: Elliot Cowan
Jellaby: Robert J. Page
Ezra Chater: Alexi Kaye Campbell
Richard Noakes: Vincent Penfold
Lady Croom: Samantha Holland
Captain Brice RN: Dominic Colchester
Hannah Jarvis: Diana Kent
Chloe Coverly: Alice Hart
Bernard Nightingale: John Dougall
Valentine Coverly: Tobias Menzies
Gus Coverly/Augustus Coverly: Michael Mallon

Director: Rupert Goold
Designer: Matthew Wright
Lighting: Tony Simpson
Music: Adam Cork
Choreography: Francine Watson Coleman, Dominic Colchester

2002-10-16 01:30:39

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