Just had to respond to the most recent comment. I sat in the middle of the stalls when I saw this in June and could hear every word. Having seen the legendary original production, I was worried this one would pale by comparison--but I thought it every bit as good. Stoppard's masterpiece, one of the greatest plays of the 20th century. - DW
30 Aug 09
Terrible. Could not hear some members of the cast from the Stalls Row L. Also there was a slight echo, which did not help. Understood the basic plot, but the details were lost on me given I could only hear part of the play. I have never had a problem with hearing actors before at any theatre, any where. It may be worth seeing if you can get a seat in the front stalls. If you can only get seats further back I would recommend giving it a miss and save your money. - Disappointed Theatre Visitor
17 Aug 09
According to an article in The Independent, which basically gives away the entire story, I may have been looking for a non-existent twist at the end. Upon further refelection Arcadia is justifiably regarded as Stoppard's masterpiece and deserves nothing less than 5 stars. - David Baxter
09 Aug 09
Given that audiences rarely have the opportunity to see a play more than once during a run, part of the skill of the playwright should be to convey even complicated ideas in a way that can be understood on first viewing. Tom Stoppard has been accused of belonging to the "look at me, I'm so clever" school of writers but Arcadia just manages to stay on the right side of the line. Part of the strength of David Leveaux's production is that dauntingly complex mathematical, scientific and literary theories do not cloud an extremely entertaining and funny literary detective story and suppressed passions. Just when I was feeling pleased with myself for following the twists and turns came the closing scene: Hannah anounces that she has identified the hermit - I thought I had too but realised I had lost the plot right at the end and this is the first play I think I will need to read again later. An excellent cast do full justice to Stoppard's ideas and wit with especially good performances from Samantha Bond, Nancy Carroll, Neil Pearson and Dan Stevens (plus the beautiful Lucy Griffiths). Arcadia is not an easy play but it is not as intimidating as I had feared which made for a memorable experience. - David Baxter
06 Aug 09
I saw the original production of Arcadia back in 1993 at the National and recall being wowed by the brilliance of it, so have been very excited since hearing of this new production which Iíve been eagerly anticipating.
Tom Stoppard has written a masterpiece, each line is a joy, the beauty of language in all its glory is in this play which spans two periods of time.
The characters from the past are looking forward to whats to come and in the shape of the brilliant Thomasina, trying to predict it, whilst her tutor Septimus tries to keep up and her mother, Lady Croom desperately longs for the past as she tries in vain to hold on to the beauty of Sidley Park she so enjoys and bemoans Richard Noakesí plans for its future. In the present we have characters looking back, trying to make sense of the past and the events that occurred at Sidley Park. The measured, calm, almost cold Hannah, the hapless, childlike Bernard who gets an idea in his head and just canít let go and the scientist Valentine doing with his computer what Thomasina did with her pencil.
There is not a weak link nor a weak part in this play which is so beautifully written, each character perfectly drawn.
Back in 1993 I considered this play to be one the best Iíd seen, now all these years later and after seeing a great deal more, I can honestly conclude in my opinion it is the greatest play of the 20th century and beyond. It is rich and wonderful and deserves to be seen by many , to enjoy the beauty of a brilliantly constructed play. So I was thrilled that when I saw it, the theatre was packed to the rafters giving me hope that serious, quality plays which arenít star led can thrive in the West End.
Of this production, I loved Dan Stevenís Septimus who displayed his intellect whilst smouldering with passion. Jessica Caveís genius Thomasina is a real swot and for a while a very straight laced one, almost too much so but as she grows up we see her emotions begin to show through though I would have liked to have seen a little more. George Pottsí Ezra was a little too wooden for me and lacked the passion of the poet the character so longer to be, Nancy Carroll as Lady Croom has some of the sharpest, funniest lines in the play, yet I felt she didnít make enough of these. There was little of the acerbic wit I remember in Harriet Walterís brilliant performance in the original production which embellished this part superbly. As a result, in this production Lady Croom lacks the force of the character she really is, for example when she chides Chater for questioning her over the author of The Castle of Otranto. Lady Croom is clearly in charge of things but this didnít seem apparent from the way this scene was played out.
Of the modern day characters, Samantha Bondís Hannah is excellent. She really attacks the part full on and delivers a strong, assured performance. Neil Pearsonís Bernard grows into the hapless, blinkered Don hell bent on the fame that results from his ďdiscoveryĒ regardless of the facts and delivers an endearing character despite his failings. In Ed Stoppardís Valentine I found a soft, warm hearted scientist whose passion for the work he describes are played out beautifully in the scenes with Hannah, the woman he obviously adores.
Then of course thereís Gus or Augustus who features in both periods, a character in the modern day scenes who plays the observer, a silent witness to whatís occurring and with it seems better understanding than anyone of what went before. Itís a clever ploy to use this character to link the period together.
The staging was excellent Ė simple and effective allowing the switch between periods with ease. I also loved the lighting, especially at the end as Thomasina waits to dance with Septimus. She is lit all in white and appears ghost like, a sad indicator of whatís to follow.
This play has it all. It makes you think and it makes you laugh. Itís not perfect, but its not far off. - Paul Wallis
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