38 thoughts on “Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (the play)

  1. Ooh, I’ve been pondering trying to see a show on the Saturday after BEA. (Theatre geek that I am, the very idea of going to NYC and not seeing a show just seems wrong.) I would totally see this!

    • Oh, you should, if you can get tickets. I strongly advise you to. But if you can’t, I will go see Sleep No More with you instead. Sleep No More sounds brilliant! I really want to see it!

      • Ooh, I just looked up Sleep No More. I totally want to see that. I lurve the Scottish play, and I lurve experimental theatre. Let’s do it!

  2. I had a friend who believed that the real point of life was to own magnificent contemporary art and that buying groceries was rather second-rate in comparison. And when I worked in a bookstore I cut back on meals in order to buy more books. So I see where you are coming from here. I would love to see Arcardia but have never had the opportunity. I do hope to one day.

    • Yep, I can understand both of those viewpoints. Only if I bought contemporary art I wouldn’t have any place to store it or hang it, so until I have a permanent home, it’s all books for me.

      If you ever have any opportunity whatsoever to see Arcadia, even if it involves a few hours’ travel, do it. It is glorious.

  3. This sounds absolutely glorious. I am almost–but not quite–convinced that I picked the wrong summer to go to London, since the RSC will be in New York City!

    It’s disappointing that Billy Crudup didn’t portray the character’s stake in what he does, because I think your analysis is spot on. But seeing him in person, ooooh! It gives me pleasant shivers just to think of it. He was so good in the movie Stage Beauty he makes me cry every time–and that’s what makes me realize I’m holding my breath. For a movie. On video. Really, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

    I will now go console myself that I can’t get to NYC until at least next February by doing all the stuff that needs to be done before the last dress rehearsal of the high school musical I’m helping to direct.

    • Oh, well, the RSC is not the only company in London. Far from it. And indeed I have seen several plays by the RSC that have failed to move me. See plays at the Globe! That’s what you really want. The Globe, and buy a groundling ticket, and get there early.

      • Hmm, I already have one set of tickets for the Globe, to see Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. My family is agitating for Shakespeare at the Globe, so I’m hesitating over All’s Well that Ends Well there or Richard III at the Old Vic. Help me decide?

      • I’ll always vote for the Globe, so don’t go by me. Richard III sounds good too.

        Oh, well, I don’t want you to have a hard time with your knee. It’s just, when you’re a groundling and you’re that close to the stage — I don’t want to be all melodramatic about it, but it’s magical. But if you can’t be a groundling, I guess go see Richard III. It’s just the most amazing thing ever to be a groundling. I would choose to be a groundling at the Globe over almost any other theater experience in the world.

      • I have purchased groundling tickets for the Globe for July 24, to see All’s Well That Ends Well. What decided me is that the Kevin Spacey Richard III is scheduled to come to NYC next January, and I’m betting it might still be there when I might get to NYC in February.

  4. Good theater is a wonder. I find myself holding my breath too when I’m watching. 🙂 I haven’t been up to see a play in almost two years. I think we’re way overdue. We have some nice theaters down here in DC but nothing like New York City.

    • Oh, but, y’all are getting The Habit of Love later this year, by the same guy who wrote The History Boys. So that’ll be nice, eh? I haven’t read it yet but it sounds brilliant.

      • I think The Habit of Love is a big-screen broadcast of the National Theatre production. We get a lot of those in DC, but scheduling problems have get me from going. Their production of Phedre with Helen Mirren actually came in person, and I got to go (as an usher), which was a thrill.

  5. I agree with you. Both about theatre in general and about Arcadia. I’ve not seen this production but I saw it at ACT in San Francisco many years ago. The ending had me walking on air. Heartbreaking and beautiful, both. I think it got to me more than most because at the time I was in graduate school studying ideas very close to those discussed in the play.

    One of my favorite nights in the theatre.

  6. I am so glad that you enjoyed this. I haven’t seen a play in a really long time, but we do have some great opportunities to see both professional and fledgling theater quite close to where I live. Your excitement makes me want to go out and get tickets to something soon, and if I ever come to New-York, the theater is one thing I am not going to miss! Wonderfully enthusiastic post, Jenny!

    • I’ve adjusted extremely rapidly to having lots of available theatre and I must say it’s lovely. 😀 I only wish there were more straight plays (it’s all musicals, which are great too but they’re not the only good thing).

  7. It’s been years since I’ve seen or read this. And I would probably appreciate it so much more now; I should really revisit. Though sadly I won’t be anywhere near this production – it sounds excellent!

    • It is, and if you can in any way swing a ticket, I really recommend it. I cannot overstate how fantastic it is. It is all good all the time amazing.

  8. I love going to the theatre, if only it wasn’t so damned expensive! And this play sounds wonderful.

    I’ve booked tickets for my bookclub to go and see the RSC production of Macbeth in Stratford upon Avon in September, but that’s probably the only theatre-trip for me this year.

    • Oh, wow! I’m sure the Macbeth will be marvelous! I looooove Macbeth. Can I just say, though, I spent two days in Stratford a few years ago, and the guys there are so, so, so sketchy. So sleazy. Avoid Stratford guys. That is my advice to you.

      • Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare play, and I’ve always wanted to watch it performed.

        I can’t say I’ve ever met anyone from Stratford, male or female, but I’ll bear that in mind!

  9. I saw Arcadia in Washington, D.C. a year or two ago, and the Thomasina was terribly shrill in that one. It was actually a very good production, other than that, but it’s the kind of play that I want to see done perfectly or not at all, and a grating Thomasina is hard to take. Also (and I hope this isn’t a spoiler) in the final scene one of the actors extinguished the lit candle before the curtain came down, which seems to me to make that ending meaningless.

    I see exactly what you mean about Bernard. Kipling (who I have to mention at all times because I am obsessed with him), says in one of his stories, “A man’s work will try to save the soul of him.” And Bernard strikes me as just that kind of person – somewhere in him is the same passion for learning that animates Thomasina and Val and Hannah, and to some degree Septimus as well – but in Bernard it has to struggle against so much ambition and flippancy and learned insincerity that it almost gets lost. I wonder if its surface cleverness is what makes Arcadia so powerful – you don’t expect to chip away that veneer and find a core of solid characterization and emotional sincerity, and the surprise makes it doubly effective.

    • Hm, I see what you mean about the candle. But it’s not like Thomasina’s candle was the only candle in the whole house, right? We can infer a candle in the hallway. The waltzing is what makes it for me. When I saw it, Septimus says “Be careful of the flame,” and a few people laughed. Laughed! Not funny!

      I am planning to become obsessed with Kipling shortly — I’m buying a book of his stories and poems. I’ve only read the Just-So Stories and a few maddeningly sexist poems. Any recommendations to make me love him?

      Yeah, I’m curious to see if Billy Crudup will have given Bernard slightly more center by the time I go. Probably not, I guess, but a girl can hope.

      One of the things that was so beautiful about this production was the scene towards the end where Lady Croom is complaining about the hermitage, and Septimus is going through Thomasina’s book. It’s nearly the first time you see Septimus utterly in earnest, because he’s so baffled and amazed at her brilliance; and you can see how he would have become the hermit. It’s a gorgeous piece of writing, and it was beautifully acted in this production — I missed all the dialogue in that scene because I was transfixed watching Septimus and Thomasina.

      • If you are planning to become obsessed with Kipling, I would recommend starting with Puck of Pook’s Hill and Rewards and Fairies, not necessarily in that order. Puck of Pook’s Hill is basically children’s time-slip fantasy – it’s a collection of historical stories, mostly realistic, set in a magical modern-day frame. Rewards and Fairies is the sequel, but it’s not really for children, it only pretends to be. That’s the one I started with, when I was eleven, and it sucked me in right away.

        Or you could start with Kim, which I think is Kipling’s best work, but I’m not sure if it’s the best place to start or not.

        Or there’s the Jungle Book and the Second Jungle Book – as with Puck of Pook’s Hill / Rewards and Fairies, the second one is more sophisticated, and I think better. Basically, I seem to be saying: start with his books for and about children. That’s the way I met Kipling, and it seems to have worked.

        His stories for adults are a mixed bag, and some of them are very, very good, but if you read only one I think it should be “The Gardener.”

        Just make sure that you avoid a novel called The Light That Failed. I wouldn’t really recommend starting with the poems, either. Some of them are actually good, but I wouldn’t say that poetry was Kipling’s strength as a writer. The poems don’t show him at his most likable, either – I think there was something about the process of fiction writing, at least when he was genuinely invested in it, that softened and tempered the harsher aspects of his personality.

        I’m sorry about writing such a long response, but it always makes me ridiculously happy when people are willing to give Kipling a chance.

  10. I so so regret not having gone to see this when it was on here last September! Especially as I did see A Christmas Carol and A Doll’s House by the same company and they were both excellent. I bet their Arcadia was amazing too. I know I can always read it, but it’s not the same 😦

  11. Arcadia was revived in London in 2009 and I meant to see it… but never got around to it. I love the play, and would love to see it filmed – I think it would work quite well as cinema. I can’t imagine how one would play Thomasina as shrill – she’s so bright, I’d think thoughtful would be a better way to play her.

    (I notice from Wikipedia that Crudup played Septimus in the first Broadway production of the play)

  12. Pingback: Review: Translations, Brian Friel « Jenny's Books

  13. I saw the original production at the National Theatre in London in 1993 (it was Rufus Sewell’s breakthrough role, before Middlemarch on TV) and he was lovely. Bill Nighy and Felicity Kendal were fab too. Sadly I remember loving it, but can’t remember much about the plot sadly. You’ve made me desperate to look it up.

  14. You’ve given me such longing for the theatre. It’s been more than a year since I saw a play. I’ve got tickets for Wicked in August, but that’s much too far away. I must find something to see sooner.

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