Cambridge Troupe Revives Stoppard Classic For EdFringe 2016
Company: Pembroke Players
Dates: 14th Aug to 28th Aug
Time: 4:20 (1hr 30mins)
Cambridge University’s Pembroke Players
The Pembroke Players have abridged the play. First premiered at the National Theatre, this undisputed masterpiece will be staged at Spotlites Venue 278 from 14th – 28th August. Love rivalries of Byronic standard and poetry of a much lower one make a mess of the rooms and residents of Sidley Park.
In the schoolroom of a country estate in the 1800s, Thomasina is discovering the truth about sex. In the same room about 200 years later, a group of academics are still trying to work it out.
While thirteen-year old Thomasina complains to her tutor about algebra and rice pudding, in the present day, Bernard Nightingale arrives at the same house in his red Mazda. He believes he has found a note that suggests Byron was involved in a duel at Sidley Park, and which might explain his mysterious flight to the continent. With the begrudging help of fellow expert, Hannah, he attempts to piece together the evidence that would prove his theory correct.
What was the inspiration for this performance?
The inspiration for this production of Arcadia was an enduring love of the play, and a knowledge that we work well as a team and as best pals. It’s very important to us that this play is treated with the respect it deserves, but we also want to make sure that our distinct influence as directors shows.
How did you become interested in making performance?
Cambridge, our university, has a thriving theatre scene, and we
have worked on productions together in the past. However, we’ve all been interested in very different aspects of performance, and come to theatre from different creative backgrounds; acting, filmmaking, music, production, design, comedy are all parts of this process that we have, among us, been involved with before. It was on a previous production that we discovered our shared love of Arcadia and it was only a matter of time before we found a chance to put it on.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
We have a fairly standard rehearsal process of working through the play in terms of analysing scene and character arcs. However, our cast vary in the techniques that are most useful for them. For example, Colin Rothwell, playing Bernard, has a lot of experience in improvisational comedy, so for Bernard’s scenes we derive a lot of ideas and a lot of laughs from Colin’s comedic talent. Will Peck, on the other hand, who plays Septimus, prefers to do detailed character work before trying scenes, and this helps us build the layers of direction that bring out the best in the script, and his subtle and dry humour shines as a result. We have a cast of fantastic characters, with great actors filling their shoes, and because of their different angles, they all learn from one another, as do we.
What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We’ve chosen our cast for their comic ability and sharpness in delivery, among other things. We’re focussing a great deal on experimenting and pushing characterisations to their limits, and we want the audience to have the whole picture of each character by the time they have finished their first line. With a shared love of the work of Aaron Sorkin, we are pushing the ping-pong dialogue so that it is at its utmost crispness.
What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Cambridge University’s Pembroke Players are hoping to present a brilliantly fun and fast-paced production of Stoppard’s masterpiece. Arcadia has the style and flair of a Wildean farce, but quickly develops tension as the stakes rise. We know the audience will be laughing, and we hope they will also be utterly engrossed in the sharply twisting plot.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
One of the wonderful things about Arcadia, and Stoppard as a playwright, is that there are many genres and traditions that have been and can be drawn upon. For this, we have elements of comedy fit for Restoration theatre, and moments that could have been lifted from the corridors of Sorkin’s White House, but ultimately Stoppard’s quick-wittedness is second to none, and we would like to consider ourselves part of the long tradition of trying to do his marvellous and fruitful words justice.
‘The universe is deterministic alright, just like Newton said, I mean it’s trying to be, but the only thing going wrong is people fancying people who aren’t supposed to be in that part of the plan.’
Pembroke Players is the University of Cambridge's most high-profile and renowned college drama society, where competitors include the world-famous Footlights. Being the most active and dynamic college drama society, it has a brilliant and consistent theatrical reputation at the Fringe and all over the world, staging over 30 productions a year. In its 60 year history, it has launched the careers of Peter Cook, Eric Idle, Bill Oddie, Joe Thomas and Tom Hiddleston, among other well-known figures both on and off the stage and screen.
Arcadia was recently voted one of the Nation’s Top Five plays in English Touring Theatre’s ‘My Favourite Play’ poll.