FRIDAY, JULY 6: Toronto director Terry Tweed can be proud to have done her literary idol Sir Tom Stoppard justice in her production of his masterpiece Arcadia.
This was not an easy play to recreate but she conjured magic on the Daylesford stage.
Arcadia is hailed as one of the greatest plays of our age and while any amateur production is never going to be flawless, Bermuda hit surprisingly close to the mark.
The play is set in an English country house at Sidley Park, England and switches back and forth in time between 1809 and the present day. The present day characters are trying to uncover the secrets of the characters of the past.
Big ideas are discussed among the academics and aristocrats within from Fermat’s Last Theory to the Chaos Theory. But the big ideas are there to represent the basic human conditions such as love, lust and death and with academics and aristocrats — you can count on plenty of romp.
Having read Arcadia’s wordy and often complex script, I was expecting many more stumbled sentences or forgotten lines in this first performance of the production run.
The cast, most of whom have day jobs or full time studies, clearly dedicated a lot of their time, their spare time, to their parts.
Their director must also have kept them well disciplined.
It seems unfair not to mention all of the cast members as there was not a bad performance between them but there is not enough room in this review.
No mean feat
Brittany Ray, just 20 years of age, made her debut on the BMDS stage playing child prodigy Thomasina Coverley, which is no mean feat.
She was playful, confident and a delight to watch, her theatre studies course seems to be paying off. There could have been a little more lament in her at times — during her monologue mourning the loss of knowledge at the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, there was more anger in her delivery where her line begs, “how can we sleep for grief?” But on the whole she was competent.
Will Kempe is quite a force to be reckoned with — his portrayal of don, Bernard Nightingale, was bolshie and boisterous and, as demanded, utterly chauvinistic. This is the first time I have seen him on stage and I hope to see him much more often.
Alongside him was Deborah Pharoah-Williams who excelled as the straight-laced author Hannah Jarvis whose quest is to uncover the story of the Sidley Park hermit.
Her delivery was near flawless and she kept in character throughout lengthy streams of dialogue, both her own and her fellow actors’.
Her and Bernard’s exchanges were batted with lightening speed and expert timing.
Septimus Hodge, Thomisina’s respected tutor and contemporary of Lord Byron, was played coolly and competently by James Birch. His delivery of many lines had the audience laughing hard such as his description of Mrs Chater as: “A woman whose reputation could not be adequately defended with a platoon of musketry deployed by rota”.
Finally, Jo Shane, who produced the play along with Jenn Osmond, played a subtle version of Lady Croom who is often portrayed as icy and overbearing. Shane had an air of annoyance over resentment, but in her nonchalant delivery, still managed to command her mignons with authority.
The set was sparse, as scripted, but with beautiful high windows and a distinctly Bermudian looking pillared terrace for the obligatory local touch.
More could have been done with the garden beyond, especially as so much of the play revolves around it. It couldn’t have been too detailed as it changes over the two time periods but they could at least have painted more than a little tuft smack bang in the centre of the horizon.
The lighting was used to great effect — one scene towards the end of the play was set at dawn and the pink hued lights gradually made their way up to day light.
Costumes were fine and well chosen — George Spurling as Captain Brice looked particularly dapper.
Stoppard is often perceived as the cold academic but this play has heart and soul.
The true boffins will revel in dissecting the script should they want to, but on the surface this is a good old-fashioned detective story full of emotion and meaning.
Hailed as one of the greatest plays of our age it is no flash in the pan — it’s been said to be up there with Shakespeare and there can be many comparisons in the tone and structure of the play. It’s a must see.
• Arcadia is playing at Daylesford until July 14. Tickets are $30 from with no performances on Sunday or Monday. Call 292-0848.