I never expect to leave the theatre feeling simultaneously enlightened and dumbfouded – however Arcadia achieved just this. This detective story with a twist touches on subjects as diverse as maths, metaphysics, literature and lust, as it follows two sets of academics who, despite living over two centuries apart, embark on individual quests for knowledge. Notions of chaos and disorder begin to surface as the lives of the two sets of characters become increasingly linked, and we start to understand the knowledge we gain over time, lose over time, and the knowledge we’d rather not have at all. So, a light night out at the theatre then…
However, don’t let the evidently complex subject matter jade your view of the play. The play text is sharp and sarcastic, littered with puns and quips that repeatedly raised a smile. The complicated material was grasped by the performers with enthusiasm and conviction; sometimes so much so it seemed to gallop ahead of us, going over my head a little (I am but an Arts student, after all), yet this did not impede on this otherwise engaging piece.
All the actors approached their parts with ease and humour, each creating a rounded, likable character that smoothly swept us through the play. Lauren Grant and Dan Rae-Scott are to be particularly commended for their carefully executed performances of the two Georgian leads. The relationship they portrayed was believable and touching, showing a gradual change in tone as the characters aged over time. Henry Blanchard also gave a sterling performance which was understated, yet clear and effective. Topher Collins’ interpretation was highly comedic, and he executed his lines with near-impeccable timing. Some characters were played more subtly, some more histrionic than others – a mix that could have been tempered slightly to aid credibility, but one that nevertheless made for a varied performance.
The backstage crew certainly went all-out to add depth to this already well thought-out production. Despite the New Theatre’s relatively small size, the set managed to give an impressive feeling of space, both in and outside the living room where all the action was set. The fabulous costumes acted as a distinguishing feature between the two eras. The lighting was pleasingly subtle and nuanced, and the set succeeded in bridging the gap between the two disparate time periods. This both highlighted the chaos escalating throughout, and provided a sense of continuity.
So, whether or not you have a brain capacity to rival Einstein’s, get yourself down to the New Theatre this week for what proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable show. With a fascinating plot that provokes intrigue and curiosity – it’ll definitely get you thinking!