148.August 6

Invitation to a play reading: ARCADIA by Tom Stoppard, complete with dinner, mild entertainment, science, discussion, and intrigue...

Friday August 6, 7pm.

First come, first chosen, as far as roles are dished out according to age appropriateness. This is not a performance, so I am only looking for people who want to read and eat (and their spouses/children). Please respond soon as to which parts you would like to read, as I expect they will disappear as fleetingly as time. I've enclose a character list, and an edited synopsis.

The reading will take place at 144 First Street South West, indoor and out. Please bring something to contribute to the dinner, which will be in the style of an English Country Party. The following information contains spoiler information.

Arcadia Summary

Thomasina Coverly...................13 (and almost 17)

Septimus Hodge.....................mid 20's-30's


Ezra Chater.........................mid 20's-40's

Richard Noakes.....................mid 20's-50's

Lady Croom......................mid 20's-40's

Captain Edward Brice R.N....mid 20's-40's

Hannah Jarvis....................mid 20's-40's

Chole Coverly.........................late teen's, early 20's

Bernard Nightingale.....................30's through 40's

Gus Coverly....................teen's, early 20's

Valentine Coverly...........................late teen's to 20's

Augustus Coverly..............Same as Gus


Scene 1

April 10, 1809

Septimus Hodge is trying to distract Thomasina by asking her to prove Fermat's Last Theorem whilst he reads Mr. Chater's poem The Couch of Eros, written by another visitor to Sidley Park, Mr. Chater.

Mr. Chater is angry that Mrs. Chater was last seen in the midst of 'a perpendicular poke' in the gazebo with Septimus, and Septimus tries to disarm him by over-praising The Couch of Eros, and is successful. (Mr. Chater is unaware that it was Septimus who gave a bad review of his earlier poem, The Maid of Turkey)

Thomasina thinks about why rice pudding can never be unstirred and the mysteries of determinism, which she discusses with Septimus, and begins to develop her theory of the chaotic shapes of nature.

Lady Croom interrupts them, with Captain Brice and the landscape gardener Mr. Noakes in tow. They all discuss the modifications to the classical style of the gardens of the Park into the new picturesque style.

When they have all gone, Thomasina draws a hermit into the design of the new gardens. This will cause confusion later, in the twentieth century.

Scene 2

The present day

In a room virtually unchanged since 1809, Hannah Jarvis is researching the house and its grounds for a book about hermits as symbols of the breakdown of the Romantic imagination. Chloe Coverly is showing Bernard Nightingale into the house. Bernard has given a bad review of Hannah's last book, on Caroline Lamb, and doesn't immediately reveal his identity.

Valentine Coverly is also present, doing postgraduate research into the population biology of the game birds in the grounds of the house.

When Bernard has his identity revealed to Hannah she is angry, but they share research information and Bernard advances his theory that Byron, who stayed at the Park in 1809, murdered Mr. Chater.

Scene 3


Thomasina, tutored by Septimus in Latin translation, weeps for the loss of knowledge from the ancient world in the fire at the Alexandrian Library. Septimus believes that what was lost will always turn up again (as will Thomasina's ideas about iteration be recovered in the twentieth century), but they are interrupted by Chater who has learned that Septimus wrote the bad review of his last poem, is determined to fight Septimus in a duel, set for 5 o'clock next morning.

Scene 4

Present day

Hannah is reading from Thomasina's maths primer and has discovered Thomasina's concept of iteration in her theory of the chaotic shapes of nature. Valentine is impressed, and has been trying to do something similar in his research.


Scene 5

Present Day

Bernard gives Hannah, Chloe and Valentine a preview of his lecture on Byron the murderer. They try to kill his argument, which infuriates him, and he launches into an attack on science, particularly directed at Valentine.

Hannah is given good reason to think that Septimus is the hermit at Sidley Park. Bernard goes off to London to give his talk and appear on 'The Breakfast Hour'.

Scene 6


The duel did not take place. Mr. Chater and his wife had left for the West Indies, where Chater will describe a dwarf dahlia and be bitten fatally by a monkey. Byron had left for Greece in separate carriage before dawn. Septimus, waiting all night at the boat house, has shot a rabbit for Thomasina. He returns to the house to find that Lady Croom has been searching for him. She has found two letters, one a love letter apparently to her, the other regarding rice pudding. She invites Septimus to her rooms.

Scene 7

Both in 1813 and in the present day

There is a fancy dress party taking place and characters from both these times appear similarly dressed. Chloe reads about Bernard's Byron theory in the Saturday papers. She talks about determinism with Valentine just as did Thomasina with Septimus in the first scene.

Valentine has been using his computer to extend Thomasina's ideas about iteration. Valentine and Hannah discuss this and the concept of entropy - that the universe is slowly running down. They wonder if it was Thomasina or her tutor who was the genius at Sidley Park.

Thomasina is hoping that Septimus will teach her to waltz (twirling like stirring rice pudding). Lady Croom enters. She has taken Septimus and Count Zemlinsky to the Royal Academy where they have met Byron. Lady Croom complains to Mr. Noakes about the noise from his steam engine, but Thomasina explains that the machine works according to laws that prove the universe is running down. (She has spotted this new concept, which we call entropy, part of the study of thermodynamics, in a paper that Septimus has been reading.)

Bernard arrives just as Hannah discovers a note which proves that Chater died in Martinique in 1810. The note destroys Bernard's argument completely and Hannah sees it as just revenge for his bad review of her last book.

Septimus agrees to teach Thomasina to dance, but whilst they wait for the appropriate music to emerge from the next room, he looks at the diagram Thomasina has made of heat irreversibilty. In the corresponding present day scenes, Valentine and Hannah examine the same diagram and realize its significance.

Finally, there is a waltz, and whilst Bernard finds he has to leave quickly, having been caught with Chloe in the hermitage by her mother, Septimus and Thomasina dance. Hannah is surprised by Gus who wants to dance with her in the present day, and the play ends.