Arcadia at Bath Theatre Royal

JUST as the media is abuzz with questions like “are you brainy enough to see a Stoppard play,” Blanche McIntyre’s new production of one of his greatest – Arcadia – comes to Bath’s Theatre Royal.

I find it rather depressing that the country is being asked to criticise Stoppard for writing work that is a bit demanding. It seems peculiar that it’s “cool” to proclaim your ignorance, rather than to pick up a dictionary, or even Google one, but then I am both grumpy and ancient.

There were those who left the (packed) auditorium at Bath muttering “I didn’t understand a word of it” – more likely because they had read the recent reports and not actually bothered to listen at all.

This is an entirely lucid and accessible production of a play that DOES make some intellectual demands. It’s beautifully played by an ensemble cast.

If you’d rather have “reality” in “sound bite” sizes, stay home!

We asked one of the stars for his thoughts.



“THEY are at it again. Life with the Coverleys at Sidley Park has a strangely repetitive quality.

I sit on the table eating greens, they discuss Fermat and fall in love with various people and are jealous. There are occasional catastrophes.

I sleep for a while, and I wake up, then I eat greens and they discuss Fermat and fall in love …

It’s been going on for years – centuries really.

Are they any nearer to solving the problems, avoiding the pitfalls, sorting out who they want to be with? No.

What seems to be changing is that while members of my own family know MORE than they ever did in the past, the people who come over for dinner know less and less, and they are proud of it!

That just doesn’t make sense to an oldie like me.

Every tortoise has his day, they say, and I’m lucky enough to have had two golden periods.

Back at the very start of the 19th century, just as some fashionable landscape architect was ripping up the garden and putting in swamps and mountains and even a hermitage, a troubled poet, friend of the tutor, turned up and caused havoc.

It didn’t end well.

The tutor, Septimus (it was him who called me Plautus the Tortoise), realised that the current Miss Coverley, Thomasina, was uncommonly bright, and not just for a girl. The two of them mourned the loss of learning – in Greek and Latin, and I don’t quite remember those. She might just have solved that Fermat Theorem, but she caught fire to her gown with a candle, and poor old Septimus never got over it.

My second big period is now – I really am very old, and called Lightning by a new Coverley heir, Valentine the mathematician.

Some celebrity-seeking prat was declaiming his half-baked theories about Byron to anyone who would sit still enough to listen, and of course that has to include me, as speed has never been my forte.

Valentine seems to be following in Thomasina’s footsteps, 200 years on. He’s got a box of tricks and he can “iterate an algorithm”. It makes pretty patterns, but he can read them, and it’s something about heat. If I could remember what it was that Septimus and Thomasina said, I think they might all tie up … or is this the “climate change” everyone’s talking about.

It’s all clever stuff, but all you need to do is listen with your ears, and your mind, open, and there’s no telling what you might pick up along the way.

I’m off for some more greens – they have something called black kale now. I think we had it back before Mr Noakes changed the park!

Lightning Plautus, #Sidleypark







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