Theatre Review: The Real Thing
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Tom Stoppard is a master of the verbose and meta. The Real Thing is a play he wrote at the peak of his powers, turning his skills to look inward at intimate inter-personal relationships. The play was reasonably autobiographical, but a 2017 audience is unlikely to know this, unlike the original 1982 crowd. Therefore the onus is on this modern production to make the audience connect. It does this expertly, leaning heavily into the laughs. Even if you don't completely get one of Stoppard's typically elaborate lines, the actors sell it with such conviction that it's hard to stop yourself giggling along. The stripped-back set also works in the play's favour — simple and elegant, it helps the audience to focus on the actors.
Laurence Fox is fantastic in the lead role of Henry, deftly displaying both the cynical outlook and the romanticism beneath, to make the role work. His opposite number Flora Spencer-Longhurst is an equally excellent Annie, bringing a human defiance to the part. As the play strides into its more serious second act, it can at times be a struggle to follow. Snap out of it for a second and there's a fear you've missed a boatload, so much information crammed into each word. That's a recurring issue with Stoppard's plays, and although it's clearly intelligent, it never belittles the audience. Instead it brings them along for a witty and sweet ride, and many will see something they can relate to.
The Real Thing, Rose Theatre Kingston, £17-£45, until 14 October.
Last Updated 09 October 2017