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Review: ARCADIA at Little Theatre, University Of Adelaide

Review: ARCADIA at Little Theatre, University Of Adelaide

The Coverlys of Sidley Park in two different centuries.

Hooray! The University of Adelaide Theatre Guild has finally reached Arcadia. Tom Stoppard's theatrical blend of broad social comedy and deep philosophical musings is ideal for a university-based company.

Matthew Chapman has delivered a well-crafted show, full of laughs inclining more to the wit and the humour than the deep scientific speculations, but a stimulating night of theatre, well worth seeing.

Centre stage is a solidly built table littered with domestic things, and a tortoise. It has been there since well before the action starts in 1809 and will be there long after the players in the present day have gone their way. That's true for the tortoise as well.

A young girl, Thomasina Coverly, is musing on raspberry jam. You can stir the jam into the rice pudding but you can't un-stir it. Pari Nehvi, in her acting debut, is engagingly secure as the precocious Thomasina. Robert Baulderstone, as her tutor, Septimus Hodge, is an attractive and equally engaging figure, parrying her questions. "What is carnal embrace?".

Elsewhere in the country house, Sidley Park, lurks Lord Byron. He never appears but his presence is frequently remarked upon. Ezra Chater, a neat piece of work by Maxwell Whigham, is a not very good poet whose wife has been found in flagrante with Septimus. He doesn't know that Septimus is the pseudonymous author of a scathing review of his work. Kate Anolak's mistress of the house, Lady Croom, is another fine performance by this experienced actor. She's engaged in a Capability Brown-inspired makeover of the grounds, with a hermitage, and real hermit on the plans. That hermit also features on a garden sketch, scribbled there by Thomasina.

'Et in Arcadia ego'. There is a death by fire foreshadowing, perhaps, the extinction of the earth, the heat-death of entropy. Stoppard leaves you wondering. He knows that you know that Byron's daughter is Ada Lovelace, the mother of computing, an 18th-century woman who lived to change the world.

In the present day, a group of scholars are investigating the possibility that Byron killed Chater in a duel. In a parallel to the early story, we have an egotistical critic, Bernard Nightingale, John Rosen in full flight, pretending to be Peacock because of his unfavourable review of Hannah Jarvis's latest book. The scenes with Alison Scharber's Hannah crackle. Also at the hall are Chloe and Valentine Coverly, descendants of Thomasina's family, brought to life by Monika Lapka and Guy Henderson. Then there's Gus/Augustus, an almost silent present joining the two centuries. Frederick Pincombe is an agile and puckish creation.

To tell you more would be to spoil the many surprises. I will mention the work of Tyrone le Fleur as Jellaby the butler, George Yankovitch, as Captain Brice, and Rohan Cassidy as Richard Noakes, as the entire cast works so well together.

The credits include a movement and intimacy coordinator, a classics advisor, and a mathematics advisor.

During the interval, a mate of mine and I were reminiscing about The Theatre Guild's production of Stoppard's Jumpers, when Professor of Philosophy, Graham Nerlich, played the leading character, a Professor of Philosophy. There was a trapeze.

Photography, Charlotte Burton.

Regional Awards


From This Author - Barry Lenny


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