The Ellis Theatre last week produced a truly remarkable production of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, directed by Jane Darby. A fully committed cast and crew worked tirelessly to produce characters of immense detail oscillating between action taking place over a two hundred year time span. This was beautiful work that was not only extremely witty – but incredibly moving and poignant.
At the heart of the play is the joy of discovery and learning, and this cast and crew proved that this had been reflected in their detailed process over the last few months. Paul Cox’s incredible set design evoked the grandeur of Sidley Park in the midst of re-inventing it’s gardens in the modern style. The wonderful lighting design poured through the windows to illuminate the discoveries of characters separated by over two hundred years. It was a testament to the cast that these transitions of style and language were so deftly handled, guiding the audience through the complex and academic connections the characters make in both the modern scenes and at the height of Regency England. In truth, this was a marvellous example of how detailed characters provide the drama without a slavish obedience to plot or traditional structure. The relationships, ever shifting alliances and attractions were like Thomasina’s algorithms, ‘in an ocean of ashes, islands of order. Patterns making themselves out of nothing. Each picture is a detail of the previous one, blown up. And so on. Forever.’ We were made to work and – like the characters – share in the joy of discovery. Dale Armitage’s glorious costumes evoked both periods and beautifully illustrated the changing positions of gender and class over the course of the play. This was a beguiling, witty, highly entertaining and moving evening at the theatre and my congratulations to all those involved.
Head of Drama