Review: (The very) Good People, Noel Coward Theatre
Review: Privacy at the Donmar or playing with mobiles in the theatre

Review: Arcadia, Bristol Tobacco Factory

Piers Wehner as Septimus in Arcadia, Bristol Tobacco Factory

Tom Stoppard's Arcadia is one of @polyg's favourites, she particularly likes the maths and science in it. Unfortunately for me that is what turns me off. Maths was horrible for me at school and my ignorance on the subject means that chunks of the play just don't connect.

It's not that I don't appreciate the skill and craft of Stoppard's work, it's just that talk of maths is like listening to a foreign language I've only just mastered the pleasantries for. Fortunately Arcadia has much more to it.

Set in the same house but in two different periods, around 180 years apart, the characters of the modern time set about unravelling what happened in the house during the earlier period.

In 1809 Septimus (Piers Wehner) is tutor to the maths obsessed Thomasina (Hannah Lee), in love with her mother (Dorothea Myer-Bennett) and having an affair with a married woman who's husband Ezra Chater (Vincenzo Pellegrino) has just found out.

The modern-day characters include author Hannah Jarvis investigating the house's hermitage and academic Bernard Nightingale who is trying to unearth a mysterious chapter in life of Lord Byron who had been a house guest in 1809 and was a school friend of Septimus'. The mystery revolves around a fatal duel and Byron's apparently hasty departure from the family.

Stoppard cleverly weaves  the two stories so that the audience is never that far ahead of the author and academic. The information gleaned about the events comes from what is overheard rather than what is seen, it sometimes second hand and incomplete. As the academics interpret what evidence they find and try and fill in the gaps then so does the audience. Inevitably not all is what it seems and this is what I enjoyed.

There is also a great humour in the 1809 scenes. Septimus is witty and clever and Piers Wehner brings oodles of charm to the character but there is also a depth to his feelings which make the ending all the more poignant.

Arcadia is never going to be one of my favourite plays but with this production I could certainly appreciate it.


There is a second degree connection but it involves people I have worked with (and still do) and that is boring for everyone else but me. So you'll just have to trust me.