Arcadia, Norwich

Let us not hyperbolise, cries Septimus. But Tom Stoppard's Arcadia rarely hesitates and is never at a loss when it comes to showering the stage at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich with cascades of paradoxes and explosions of erudition and unexpected ideas.

By CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Let us not hyperbolise, cries Septimus. But Tom Stoppard's Arcadia rarely hesitates and is never at a loss when it comes to showering the stage at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich with cascades of paradoxes and explosions of erudition and unexpected ideas.

First this all happens in a country house of the Romantic period. Outside the park stretches away in a fine landscape, and the interior, designed by John Stokes, is a splendidly airy room where a tutor and a precocious pupil settle down to debating the mysteries of the universe.

A three-letter expletive announces the arrival of the modern age, complete with a lively satire of literary research into the private life of Lord Byron. Splitting hairs, spitting with rage, a quartet of spiteful characters circles round to the wrong conclusions.

Does it all add up? Does it help us to decide whether God is Newtonian? And does it really matter whether he is or isn't anyway? Scholarly sleuthing apparently leads nowhere.

Surprisingly enough, discussions on such deep topics keep the audience highly amused as George Norton's fine production gives life to Stoppard's provocative text, creating enough action to stifle any complaints about an excess of words.

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Sarah Whiteman as Thomasina and Rose Walton as Hannah contribute particularly fine performances.

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