Tom Stoppard’s plays are just so damn entertaining and clever. They always give off such a vibe of established sophistication that he easily fits into the most respected playwrights of history, but his writing remains relevant and modern. And when one gets to experience his plays in such a production as Sydney Theatre Company’s latest Arcardia, one leaves feeling very satisfied indeed.
The staging itself is simple- a imposing table takes the majority of the stage, framed by large windows that open out beyond to give an illusion of a patio. The light is soft, pastel like almost. The static presence of the stage helps keeps us grounded, for the tale itself weaves between 1809 and a more modern age, leaping back and forwards with an eventual amalgamation at its conclusion.
The play itself is entirely reliant on dialogue and its delivery is enough to keep you completely engrossed throughout the full 2hrs and 45mins, a clear indication of clever writing and delightful staging. There are twists and turns, never so much as to be called “dramatic” but reveals about characters and the connections between our 1800 and modern stories.
At a very high level the play, self denoted, talks of pigeons, sex and literature. In it’s depths are significant discussions of theories of self determination, principles of literary discretion, gender and knowledge. There are some truly wonderful moments where these philosophies are discussed. One such moment comes from Hodge attempting to comfort his distressed pupil in regards to the lost literature of the ages. He explains that such concepts as existed in the literature would never truly be lost, that ideas exist and permeate in human thought and thus would reoccur in another time. He likens literature to inventions, explaining that inventions would continue to be re-created even if their initial concept was lost. Such explanations, be whether they be scientifically accurate or not, are beautiful.
Delivery of such concepts of course relies heavily upon the incredible cast. Ryan Corr is simply superb as the wry tutor Septimus Hodge, looking and sounding right at home in the 18th Century. Georgia Flood is an absolute delight as his innocently witty pupil, the genius Thomasina Coverly. Her bright eager eyes matching an astute delivery of Thomasina’s advanced theorems. In our modern day the banter between Andrea Demetriades and Josh McConville as proud academics Hannah Jarvis and Bernard Nightingale is quick and hilarious. Indeed McConville is utterly outstanding, little quirks and idioms making his character come to such life.
The perfect mix of intelligence and humour in its writing, delivered by the most brilliant of casts, Arcadia is an utter delight. Go see it quickly. “Tock, tick goes the universe” after all.
You will be able to say “Here I am in Arcadia” at the Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre until the 2nd April. For more information visit www.sydneytheatre.com.au
The reviewer attended the Opening Night performance on the 12th February.
Photo credit © Heidrun Löhr