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Preview: Arcadia

Mar 14 2007 08:58
Kilian Frensch
This Wednesday-Saturday DramSoc present Arcadia, Tom Stoppard's intriguing comedy.
Sex, literature, death ...

This Wednesday, brace yourself for DramSoc?s newest play: SEX. LITERATURE. DEATH. Ok, so the actual title is "Arcadia", but a little slip can never hurt.

Written by Tom Stoppard, this intriguing comedy unravels secrets masked by a contorted plot which includes everything an audience could wish for, from forbidden love to an unresolved death. In doing so, Stoppard juxtaposes the main themes of the play, Enlightenment and Romanticism, through characters and even the setting.

The play opens with a magnificent set produced by DramSoc, which depicts the front room of an estate in Derbyshire in the early 19th century. Septimus Hodge, teacher of Thomasina Coverly, is answering questions of "carnal embrace" when a butler interrupts to notify Septimus that a Mr. Chater has discovered his wife?s infidelities with Septimus. This, coupled with Thomasina?s thirst for knowledge and questioning of deterministic Newtonian views, sparks one of the many conflicts around which this play revolves.

In subsequent scenes, the plot switches between the early 19th century and the present day, retaining the setting of the estate in Sidley Park.

The modern day plot revolves around the characters Hannah and Bernard. Hannah is looking for information on the "Sidley Hermit", whose death she attributes to the breakdown of Romanticism, whereas Bernard believes to have pieced together findings which prove that the famed Romantic poet Lord Byron may have killed Mr. Chater in a duel over Chater's wife?s infidelities.

As the plot skips back and forth in time, the two themes of Enlightenment and Romanticism are juxtaposed not only through the actions and thoughts of the characters, but also through setting and atmosphere. For instance, Lady Croom, mistress of the estate and clearly pawn of the Enlightenment, is upset at plans to change the landscaping of Sidley Park; she deems it beautiful, an "Arcadia" as it is.

Almost befitting, the final scene takes place neither distinctly in the past nor in the modern day, but rather jumps back and forth with no clear divisions.

The ending?nah that would be giving it away!

DramSoc?s realization of the play is stellar. I say this not because a friend of mine is in the cast, nor because I?m sleeping with the director. Not even because I find the producer quite attractive and the props rather seductive, but because, whole-heartedly, I did not expect what I experienced. The actors didn?t just do their jobs, but many of them actually seemed to feel in their own skin with their roles and gave tremendous performances. In particular, Harold Woolley as Septimus Hodge and Alex Arbuthnot as Bernard Nightingale, were excellent.

The set is wonderfully designed and is an almost perfect imitation of the actual set used. And the lighting, oh the lighting is to die for. Anybody that visits clubs just for their laser shows, forget that, come here. The lighting perfectly plays with Stoppard?s themes and acts as a cunning leitmotif to an otherwise fantastic performance.

To sum it up, if you?re looking for a great play of love and the second law of thermodynamics, "Arcadia" is an evening well spent.

It?s on Wednesday to Saturday, doors opening at 7pm in the Union.

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Discussion about “Preview: Arcadia”

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Mar 15 2007 17:54

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