Arcadia, Duke of York's Theatre, London

4.00

I haven't seen Arcadia since its first night at the National in 1993 but the play seems no less challenging, interesting or beautiful in David Leveaux's poignant revival.

The play is set both in a Derbyshire country house in 1809 and in the modern day as the unseen figure of Lord Byron hightails it to Europe on the Lisbon packet and a student of his fictional poetic contemporary bursts through to unlikely scientific knowledge before the age of the computer; 19th-century bigwigs mingle with 20th-century successors, notably a media-savvy professor and a romantic writer.

Stoppard's son, Ed Stoppard, plays the investigative Valentine Coverly, as if trying further to uncover the meaning of a play that digs deep and never stops digging. One critic described it as Enid Bagnold rewritten by Stephen Hawking: a country house mystery leaping time and charting the end of the universe. I've never resolved whether Stoppard is too clever for me or just too clever for himself, but it's nothing but joy to let his propositions roll around the theatre. Every line has a charge, every scene a question. Did Byron kill the poet he cuckolded? Is Fermat's last theorem, or the second law of aerodynamics, less important to descry than the truth of a perpendicular poke in the gazebo?

Stoppard is creating a dramatic confection from unlikely collisions in science, everyday life and societal movements. Hannah Jarvis is also writing a history of this Sidley Park estate. She's played with aggressive panache by Samantha Bond. There's Nancy Carroll, emerging as one of our finest comediennes, slicing through the historical coincidences and equivocations with the tartness of a young Lady Bracknell.

Carroll is brilliant. She's matched by Dan Stevens as the inquisitive Septimus, Jessie Cave as his genius of a pupil and Neil Pearson as the Melvyn Bragg of the Enlightenment.

Our life is short but the procession of the human comedy is long, and no one in the theatre confronts this truth with more wit, grace and perverse delight than Stoppard. I still can't decide what the play wants to be about: but an evening that gives such pure uncomplicated pleasure on so many complicated matters is a rarity and a cause for general rejoicing.

To 12 September (0870 060 6623).

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power