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The Real Thing
October 16th - October 21st
Theatre Royal Bath Productions presents
Laurence Fox in
The Real Thing
by Tom Stoppard
Directed by Stephen Unwin
“A play that reminds you why you go to the theatre and why you fall in love. And why, just sometimes, it is all worth the effort” The Spectator
Henry is the smartest and sharpest playwright of his generation. His wife, Charlotte, an actress, has been appearing in a play by Henry about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. When Henry’s affair with Annie threatens to destroy his own marriage, he realises life has started imitating art. But are they really in love? Is it the real thing?
First staged in 1982, The Real Thing combines the intellectual and dazzling wordplay of Stoppard at his most witty with some of his most tender and touching writing. A clever, poignant and entertaining examination of infidelity, The Real Thing is a multi award-winning modern classic.
A member of one of the UK’s leading acting dynasties, Laurence Fox is best-known for playing DS James Hathaway in Lewis from 2006-2015. Other television credits include A Room With A View and Wired. His film credits include Gosford Park and Becoming Jane and recent stage roles include Our Boys and Strangers on a Train.
Tom Stoppard’s many plays include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Arcadia and he co-wrote the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love. His numerous awards include the 2013 PEN Pinter Prize for “his determination to tell things as they are”.
Ticket price includes a £1 contribution to our heritage fund.
“A play that glows with love’s warmth and burns with love’s pain” Daily Telegraph
“The Real Thing is so densely and entertainingly packed with wit, ideas and feelings that one visit just won’t do” New York Times
“A rare and brilliant thing, a play about love that engages the heart and the mind” Mail on Sunday
It's time this week for another of the Fox acting dynasty to star in a play in Malvern. After James Fox and son Jack brought us Dear Lupin a couple of years ago, this time it is son Laurence's turn to take to the stage where the actor - most famous from his appearances as D.S. James Hathaway over 9 years in Lewis - plays the main role of Henry in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.
Although the play was first performed 30 years ago, the intervening years have not led to the story needing to be updated - its themes of love and marriage remaining both timeless and relevant to today's audiences. In fact the only thing which really places it in the past is the music which is played - chosen from a selection of vinyl records - as Henry decides what music to have on a forthcoming appearance of Desert Island Discs (and there are plenty of songs which refer to "the real thing", of course).
The play starts as a play-within-a-play, with Max accusing his wife, Charlotte, of adultery whilst she claimed she was on a business trip abroad. Upset, she leaves. But then, Charlotte is actually married to Henry and was just performing in one of his plays. Max is actually married to Annie but then she and Henry start an affair leaving Max and Charlotte out in the cold and, for the most part, out of the play as well. A couple of other characters are introduced, albeit briefly - Debbie (daughter of Henry and Charlotte), Brodie (a political activist who set fire to a wreath on the Cenotaph) and Billy (a young actor who also has a brief affair with Annie).
Fox is very believable as the pedantic playwright, a romantic who is passionate about his writing - and equally scathing about others who do not understand its importance, equating good writing to a cricket bat, crafted and designed for a specific purpose, whereas bad writing (Brodie's play in this case) is like a random and inferior plank of wood. The supporting cast, particularly Flora Spencer-Longhurst who plays Annie, work well together in this play of reality vs. appearance or fact vs. fiction.
Brilliant! Dialogue which stuns and delights the mind, acting which exceeds any expectation and totally absorbs attention. See it! Kh
The Real Thing…Really? This ‘Thing’ called love…Is that what it all boils down to in the end? Is a red bra and suspenders the only ‘Thing’ that’ll bring down the cleverest, wittiest and sharpest playwright? Fox leaves the phone flailing as he, puppy-dog like, trails after his adulteress wife; mirroring the well-crafted play he wrote at the beginning…Stoppard continues to reign supreme as wordsmith extraordinaire with his cleverly written, crafted and ingenious language to act out the characters’ emotions about love, about cheating, about deceiving others. The metaphorical cricket bat used to reveal the difference between the ‘aged’, experienced and valuable willow-crafted bat, which is metaphorically Henry 'the writer' versus the young, wooden and useless plank; a metaphor for the young, inexperienced writer Brodie with whom his adulterous wife is having the affair with. Fox's acting is worthy of the Five Star rating and like the cricket bat, is first class, beautifully structured and delivers these incredibly well-crafted words fiercely, brilliantly and with an intensity that anyone who may have ever been in the same position could relate to…Love…Is this ‘The Real Thing?’