Arkadia: A Present from the Past

Tom Stoppard is considered by many to be one of the finest playwrights in recent history. To say that Arkadia (eng. Arcadia) is his magnum opus then sets expectations quite high from the start. Teater Neuf took on that challenge and did not disappoint.

The story centres around two different groups of people, one in the past (around 1809-–1812) and the other in the present, yet both inhabiting the same house. This is used as means of juxtaposition and heightened by the static set and the permanence of objects between both times. The group in the past primarily revolves around Thomasina and her tutor, Septimus Hodge, as they discuss and debate everything from poetry to chaos theory. These events are mirrored and revealed in part by the characters of the present who are digging back through history to learn more about a strange hermit who lived near the house and his relationship to Lord Byron.

This production, directed by Karl Gran Grodås and Bjørn Berge, does not break from the form of the original and even included the essential living tortoise to symbolise the enduring nature of existence. A faithful rendition in all ways (other than translating Stoppard’s powerful dialogue into Norwegian), there were many moments of warm humour, such as Aurora Nossen’s (Chloe) looks of besotted admiration while Tor Itai Keilen (Bernard Nightingale) paced around the table, delivering his theories.

The show was ultimately a mother and daughter affair, as both Marianne Lindbeck and Anna Marie S. Nesheim, who played Lady Croom and her daughter Thomasina respectively, stood out with stellar performances. Lindbeck’s presence on stage was riveting; it was impossible not to follow her every glance and grin with complete captivation. Her expressive precision is of a standard that will soon find her on a much larger stage or screen. Meanwhile, Nesheim played the role of a curious and fiery youth with utter conviction, immersing herself with hair-chewing and inquisitive whimsy.

This is the latest example put on by Teater Neuf that continues to show that, despite the nature of the group, there is nothing amateur about it.