When it comes to any form of entertainment, we’re always looking to get something out of it. Sometimes you want to just have frivolous fun or sometimes you want to feel your heartbeat fast. And sometimes you’d like to challenge your mind. ARCADIA is that kind of play. Tom Stoppard’s witty and cleverly written play that has my mind reeling. It’s the type of play that has so much food for thought that it leaves you full to the brim at the end and you just want to sit back and digest it all.
ARCADIA is a multi-layered play written by Tom Stoppard and has been called “the greatest play of its time.” The New York Times called it “Tom Stoppard’s richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio and emotion.”
ARCADIA is the sum of several parts: comedy, scandal, love and mystery. It’s set in a grand country estate in Derbyshire, England and alternates between to time periods almost 300 years apart. It begins in 1809 with an innocent, yet clearly smart young teen Thomasina and her tutor Septimus Hodge. The question of “What is carnal embrace?” sets the tone of the play from the get-go. Sex and literature. Wow! Here we go!
Many different themes are thrown into the ARCADIA pot that bubbles with contrasting thoughts that go through our minds: what do we consider trivial? Is it better to think with your head or your heart? Thinking or feeling?
There’s a lot going on here. In the programme it even admits that theatre goers may not catch every joke and reference. It points out that while some are happily pondering the solution to Fermat’s last theorem, others are scratching their heads; while some may be laughing at the (unidentified) quotation from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra (initially rendered in Latin!) others may have no idea what the characters find so funny. Hey, that’s okay. But you will want to try to understand. Trust me. And when you do, you’ll feel so damn smart! It brings you back to English class when you’re studying Shakespeare and when you have that defining “A-HA, I got this!” moment.
This is very much a thinking person’s play. It keeps you on your toes and fuels your mind with questions of the universe and of the heart. If you love to challenge yourself then ARCADIA is pure bliss. It’s a roller coaster ride for the mind.
David Mirvish brings The Shaw Festival’s acclaimed sold-out hit production of ARCADIA, Winner of an Olivier Award and Evening Standard Award for Best Play, to Toronto for a strictly limited engagement. Now playing at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until December 14, 2014. For ticket information visit mirvish.com
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