Tom Stoppard’s life has been far from conventional. He was evacuated from his hometown to India before World War II, and was then continually told by his mother’s new British husband that he was now officially British, and must forget his life before. These feelings of the freedom to be yourself and censorship run largely through many of the plays that Stoppard has written, making him universally relatable. It thus comes as no surprise that his 1993 play, Arcadia, is having another run, introducing a whole new generation to new, devastating themes.
The play is a crossover between 19th century Derbyshire where a tutor and his pupil discover a mind-shattering revelation long before their time, and two academics in the present day who slowly fit together the pieces to tell this story in its true form. Discussions on love, poetry and science flow between the different time zones, showing in fact how similar we truly are. The play is usually acted around one central, long banquet table throughout, allowing the audience to focus on the drama and witty comments that are still laughable 10 years on: one recent production had the audience at the Yale Repetory theatre in stiches with its highlights reel on Youtube. Academics favour this masterpiece too; it won the 1995 Tony Award for best play, emphasising it is not one to be missed.
The guardian commented that this new production is in-fact better than the original, that this revival ‘brings out the human side to counterbalance its many dancing ideas’, thus showing that even past viewers will see a new side to this moving story. Dakota Blue Richards who played the lead role in The Golden Compass is now 20, with this being her first theatre production role; I am certain that the same flair for knowledge and the desire for good as Lyra Belacqua will continue in her performances today, as all the cast will. The production is currently playing at the Theatre Royal in Brighton until Saturday 7th Feb, and you can buy tickets through the ATG website. It’s not one to be missed.
By Robert Bone