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April 27, 2008
The story so far
Rehearsals for Arcadia began in the last week of Term 2. After eleven and a half hours of individual auditions, Rob Marks, the director, and I had found a cast that we were both excited about and we were chomping at the bit to get them into the rehearsal room and begin to see materialize what had previously only existed in our minds.
One of the joys of Stoppard’s work is the clarity and lightness with which it presents complex and apparently incongruous ideas. In Arcadia, for example, an audience is presented with ideas of Romanticism and Enlightenment, heat exchange and chaos theory, alongside philosophical musings on the nature of time and the sexual proclivity of early nineteenth century aristocracy and modern-day academics. To explain how these multifarious topics intertwine is an unenviable task and certainly not one I will attempt here. I maintain that the only explanation is the play itself – the peculiarity is, once you know the play, it’s difficult to think of Romanticism without the butterfly effect and so on.
The richness of ideas and the vitality of the characterizations and narratives of the play, whilst hugely rewarding to a reader and an audience member, give the performer a tough challenge to face. For the first week of our work, we focused on creating two banks of knowledge for the actors: (1) what the characters know and when they know it; (2) an understanding of the dramaturgical purpose of each character. In planning these early rehearsals, what we did not anticipate was much how fun this seemingly academic exercise would be.
Rather than baulking at our investigations both within and outside the rehearsal room, the cast leapt upon the discoveries and the result is already visible in rehearsal. The day we decided to have a go at performing characters who are referenced but never in the play – including the sexually insatiable Mrs Chater – is going to stick with all involved for a long time to come … for better or for worse.