TOM Stoppard’s “Arcadia” is considered by many to be his masterpiece. Set in two time periods – 1809 to 1812 and 1993 – in Sidley Park, a grand English country house in Derbyshire, we follow the stories of the inhabitants from the earlier time period and the more recent group of historical researchers and current owners.
As the play progresses, we are drawn into a world of ideas, history and science, order and chaos.
What seems simple develops new and deeper meanings, and we become researchers ourselves, trying to stay one step ahead and interpreting the action unfolding before us.
Patterns change, theories are exploded, discussions confuse and clarify. It might sound heavy going, but it’s constantly entertaining and the character interaction is recognisable and very funny.
Director Aarne Neeme’s production works superbly. He has coaxed very strong characterisations from his cast and given the show a tension and pace that ensures an audience doesn’t get lost as the wealth of ideas tumble out.
The large cast give uniformly excellent performances. Especially notable in the larger roles were Pat Gallagher, Lainie Hart, Amelia Green, Matthew Barton and Sam Hannan-Morrow.
The excellent off-stage piano playing by Michael F Coady is quite haunting. The lighting design by Chris Ellyard nicely enhances the clever design of Quentin Mitchell’s deceptively bare set. Helen Drum’s costumes were detailed and appropriate for both time periods.
This is rightly known as one of the great plays of the 20th century and Canberra Rep’s production definitely shows why.