“Arcadia” by Bonington Players
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
Bonington Theatre, Arnold.
“Arcadia” is a serious comedy which is funny, thought-provoking and touching in parts, described as ”a comedy about science, sex and landscape gardening”. Oh and it also features a tortoise!
The play is set in Sidley Park, an English country house in Derbyshire, and takes place in both 1809 and the present day. Written by Tom Stoppard, the activities involve two modern scholars and the house's current residents are juxtaposed with those of the people who lived there in the earlier period.
Stoppard’s play is complex and presents contracts between past and present and order and disorder with everything coming together like a great big melting pot at the end, blurring the contrasts to show that everything is connected in some way through history.
You’ll notice that this is a very wordy play and the actors did brilliantly in, not only remembering the script, but actually performing the script.
Now I’m not one of Stoppard’s biggest fans, but then again my only experience of his work is through ”Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”, which I first read last year and that confused the hell out of me on page. His plays are not performed that often so it’s hard to tell if seeing this play would make it a better experience in warming to Stoppard’s writing.
“Arcadia”, I have never read and after a while, I managed to work out what was happening and settled down to quite an enjoyable evening, greatly helped by this hard working cast, who by the way made the complexity of the play and script seem like a walk in the park. I know that anything that looks this relaxed and natural normally takes a lot of hard work, something I know that The Bonington Players are no stranger to.
Loved the matter of fact style of tutor and close friend of Lord Byron, Septimus Hodge (Jonathan Greaves), as well as his pupil, Thomasina, played with great elan by Charlotte Cordall.
There’s a lovely comic interchange with poet Chater, (Wayne Hill), and Hodge when Chater discovers that Septicus and Chater’s wife Lady Croom (Jenny Chatten) have been caught in “carnal embrace” in the gazebo. Hodge manages to turn the situation around to his advantage very well. There is another confrontation later on between Chater and Hodge when Chater learns from Lord Byron that Hodge had given Chater’s last work a bad review
In the present day this scenario is echoed with Bernard Nightingale (Trev Clarke) paying a visit to writer Hannah Jarvis (Lauren Hodkin), under the assumed name of Peacock, as Nightingale had given Hannah a bad review of her recent book. The characters are just as interesting in the present day as in the latter period and it’s when you see both families that the comparisons between their actions and their activities become more clear, which is when I started to understand and enjoy the story.
The rest of the cast are Chloe Coverley (Grace Brookes), Valentine Coverley (Alex Brimelow), Gus Coverley/Augustus Coverley (Byron Barkel), Jellaby (Vic Roberts), Richard Noakes (Adrian Bacon) and Captain Edward Brice (Eddie Januszcyk).
It’s a little bit saucy but great fun and the Bonington Players may have just kept my interest in Stoppard for a while longer.
Loved the costumes (Anna Hodkin/Donna Price) and the set, which was cleverly used for both time periods.
A simple but effective sound throughout (Designed by David Goathamand operated by Abbigail Byrne), as was the lighting (Howard Whitehurst).
Directed and designed by Anna Hodkin.
“Arcadia” is at the Bonington Theatre in Arnold until Saturday 19 January 2019.