Review: Between Now And Then
Words by Kelsey Harper
Tom Stoppard’s renowned Arcadia is a challenging comedy, pulled off extremely well by UTS Backstage. Performed at the Marrickville Factory Theatre, and directed by Anna Rushmer, UTS embodied Arcadia’s intricate mix of intellect, history, mathematics and science, without shying from the passion, comedy and debauchery in the form of “carnal embrace”.
Georgia McGinness perfectly encapsulated the childlike innocence and humble brilliance of the young genius Thomasina Coverly, demonstrating character development and brevity in contrast to her later coming-of-age scenes as a near seventeen-year-old. Her chemistry with Septimus Hodge (Justin Westlake) was tasteful and adorable. Septimus was portrayed astoundingly as an equally intelligent and endearing love interest of both Thomasina and her mother, Lady Croom (Amy Warner). Michael Muvlenna, as Bernard Nightingale, is a strong male lead with suave intellectual presence and delightful arrogance.
In the intimate Factory theatre, the staging was simple and effective but could have been brought to life more with a speedier pace. Some scenes felt drawn out. Maybe they would have been more engaging with more transitions between the nineteenth century and “the present”? Unfortunately, the costumes for the modern-day setting looked like they were given less consideration in comparison to those of the nineteenth-century timeline. Hannah Jarvis' (Emily Suine) millennial printed shirt accompanied with a tight pant felt unprioritized and distracting from her characterisation. Fortunately, the actress’ powerful stage presence and lethal glares overshadowed her costuming, and she should also be praised for the strength she brought this role.
The complicated and intricate story was well adapted to the space, with clear and smooth transitions through warm lighting fading to black. The final scenes were beautifully crafted as the audience witnessed both time frames collide in a transient combustion of knowledge and investigation, history and time. The stage direction saw the unproblematic collision of multiple characters on separate timelines, and the actors were able to utilize the space theatrically and seamlessly. The timeline crossover was synergetic and further complemented by the recurrent use of symbolic props, like the everlasting pet turtle.
UTS Backstage’s Arcadia is a highly entertaining student theatre production, with a charming portrayal of Stoppard’s dense storyline and characters. The hard work and dedication of this group of young performers and producers didn’t go unnoticed.