Arcadia

Date 13th November 2021
Society Richmond Amateur Dramatic Society
Venue The Georgian Theatre Royal
Type of Performance Play
Director Kathryn Torbet

Report

Author: John Holliday

RADS have never been afraid to take on a challenging play and in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, they certainly took on a very complex project. Whilst being regarded as one of the finest plays from a contemporary author, it requires a director who understands the play inside out, alongside a very talented cast to bring it to life.RADS had originally been planning to perform this show back in the spring of 2020 and due to the timescale had to make numerous cast changes ready for their performance.

Kath Torbett deserves huge praise for tackling the complexity of this show head on and not being afraid to use a very youthful, and extremely talented cast alongside some very familiar faces on the Georgian Stage.

Arcadia is split into 2 sections, both within the same setting. The 1st part, set in 1809, tells the story of a young and slightly obnoxious teenager who, alongside her lothario tutor is studying deep ideologies of mathematics and physics whilst clearly exploring her own curiosities of “carnal embrace”.

Katrianna Torbet, in the role of Thomasina was a delight to watch, she perfectly portrayed the cheeky and mischievous teenager, her words were delivered so cleverly as her flirtatious behaviour with Jasper Worallo in the role of Septimus Hodge developed during the play.

The connection between these 2 was fantastic, with Jasper brilliantly taking on the huge role of her Tutor. Sometimes in this show the monologues can drag on but the whole cast and Jasper in particular kept the audience following every single word in great detail. His sleazy and arrogant behaviour was a joy to watch on stage and you truly understood how he had seduced so many of the family, including the lady of the house, Lady Croom, wonderfully played by Jennifer Roberts. Jennifer had a great aristocratic pomp about her leaving a trail of men including her husband, well played by Stewart Kerr, hopelessly running around after her. I really enjoyed his failed attempts to duel with Septimus over his dalliances with his wife.

All characters in the historic setting of the play worked tirelessly on a very tricky script with great cameos all well played by Charles Lambert, Warnock Kerr and David Cadman.

The second element of this play is set in modern day, set in the same house and the clever use of servants to just change a few props made the jumps between periods of time seamless yet showing the clear change effectively. Well done to the whole team behind the scenes.

The modern day period sees the house, still in the Coverley family, visited by an up and coming historian Bernard Nightingale who tries to convince friend of the family and author Hannah Jarvis to help him prove the existence of Lord Byron at the family dwelling back in 1809.

Chris Wellings, in the role of Nightingale, had a huge surge of energy about his character which contrasted well with the relaxed pace of the rest of the cast. His enthusiast performance made the long monologues very entertaining and his relationship, often at loggerheads, with Fiona Dutton in the role of Hannah Jarvis was highly entertaining.

In complete contrast to Nightingale was the elder son of the household, Valentine played exceptionally well by Daniel West. His laid back, yet highly intelligent character was a refreshing break from the high energy portrayed everywhere else and he made the character his own. Clearly the only logical one in the household, Daniel spent a great chunk of the show trying to bring his sister, Chloe Coverley back down to planet earth – not an easy task.

Chloe was truly wonderful in this role, her dreamy eyed, hopeless infatuation of Valentine was a joy to watch and her acting, whilst off script is a true art and a very hard skill to master. You really felt her emotions as she is finally rejected in pretty brutal fashion by the sleazy and pompous Nightingale.

I am guessing Chloe and Alex Dyson-Birkin have been sharing tips in how to engross an audience whilst off script. In the role of her muted brother Gus, Alex used his posture, facial expressions, movement, and body language to full affect, I found him captivating and had me truly invested in his character.

Despite being a very wordy script and often using very complex scientific language, the pace from both periods of time never dipped and was very amusing throughout.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was in the production of Arcadia when RADS last performed it and finished the production a bit lost and still unsure of the full story. So to sit back and watch these thrilling performances and wonderful direction form Kathryn was a joy.

The attention to detail through was wonderful, from the use of Button, a real-life tortoise who interacted with both sides of the cast wonderfully through to the playout music, a modern pop track transposed into an 18th century piece of music.

This sort of detail and hard work by a cast was truly appreciated by the audience and I left the theatre with a new-found passion for the play. Well done RADS and I look forward to your next production