The Real Thing at The Rose Theatre in Kingston: Review

PUBLISHED: 12:44 05 October 2017

Laurence Fox (as Henry) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (as Annie). Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Laurence Fox (as Henry) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (as Annie). Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Edmond Terakopian

First staged in London’s West End in 1982, The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard calls on the theme of marital infidelity as its core thread, but digs deeper, lingering on seemingly insignificant comments and touching raw nerves with humour yet astute sincerity.

The plot is fairly straightforward - Henry is a sharp and successful playwright and in the opening act his wife Charlotte, an actress, appears in a scene from his play about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is married to an actress, Annie, whom we meet in scene 2 and quickly realise she is having an affair with Henry. Real life imitates art at this stage but who’s in love with whom? Are they really in love? Is it the real thing?

Directed by former Rose Artistic Director, Stephen Unwin, this great revival includes a great cast including Laurence Fox, immediately recognisable as Lewis’s sidekick in the TV drama of the same name. Fox plays the part of the slightly supercilious but lovable Henry with great conviction, the only frustration being that some of Stoppard’s wonderfully witty lines are lost in Fox’s effusive delivery of dialogue. Rebecca Johnson is perfect as his wife, Charlotte, relaxing into the role from the outset. Charlotte gently digs at her husband, claiming he has a joke reflex rather than a sense of humour and often echoing lines from the very scenes he has written in his own plays.

The comprehension and grasp of dialogue is so important in Stoppard’s plays. Here he is at his most witty with some tender and touching writing. Our attention is grasped from the outset, lines are like golden nuggets thrown to the air and to miss them is disappointing. On occasion I wanted to press the pause button as phrases and observations came so thick and fast, important of course for the pace of the play.

On ‘words’ Henry himself says, “I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you might nudge the world a little or make a poem that children will speak for you when you are dead.”

The cast in this production includes Adam Jackson-Smith as Max, and Flora Spencer-Longhurst, both convincing in their roles of Max and Annie. As close friends of Henry and Charlotte, they are effective pawns in the complex game of love and fidelity, or rather, infidelity.

Despite the play being written over 30 years ago, the dialogue is so relevant today and the communication of love between lovers, partners and family is ultimately the subject of The Real Thing. Stoppard said of the revival, “We felt there was no point in trying to update it. Things like love and friendship don’t really change, a play about love and marriage is pretty much timeless.”

Amongst the fine lines and great acting, Unwin’s adaptation also includes clips of music that clearly resonated with the audience on the opening night at The Rose Theatre. Happy memories of turntables and catalogued collections of LPs resulted in a feeling of warmth and familiarity that permeated through the audience. Renewed reflections on the meaning of love were also very prevalent, and although some might feel that Henry got off very lightly in his infidelity, one can’t resist a glimmer of sympathy for him in the closing scenes.

The Real Thing is at The Rose Theatre, Kingston until Saturday October 14.

www.rosetheatrekingston.org | 0208 174 0090

More from Surrey Life

16:16

At Sir William Perkins’s School (SWPS) the aim is to build confidence, integrity and excellence in a caring, innovative and happy community so that each student leaves with the best possible chance of achieving her full potential and ready to take on the world.

Read more
11:43

If the colder weather is making you feel like escaping to somewhere snug and cosy, you might be surprised to find some perfect rural retreats right on your doorstep. Here’s our pick of the best to discover in Surrey…

Read more
11:33

Get ready to laugh, boo and hiss, and cheer on your favourite childhood heroes in the array of pantomimes coming to Surrey theatres this Christmas

Read more
11:01

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Yesterday, 16:01

Actress, singer and entertainer, Anita Harris has travelled the world in an illustrious career that spans over five decades. From her home in Chertsey, she talks to Tinx Newton about the people she has worked with, her tour and life in Surrey

Read more
Yesterday, 14:13

If there's ever a time of year when a brisk, bracing walk is needed, then winter and the lead-up to the festive season is surely it. Here we round up a few of our Surrey favourites

Read more
Yesterday, 13:01

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (14, 15 and 16 December): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Surrey is a county full of festive delights. Think cosy pubs, frosty views and long winter walks. We pick 22 wonderful reasons to spend Christmas in Surrey.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Surrey this month

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

With beautiful countryside, stunning villages and plenty of bluebells during spring, Surrey is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Pupils at The Hawthorns School in Bletchingley collected over 5,800 items of food for the Loveworks foodbanks in Reigate and Merstham

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

We’ve teamed up with Grand Illusions to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win a £250 gift card with the stylish homeware brand

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Celebrating its 25 anniversary, Kinghams restaurant is found at the heart of one of Surrey’s most iconic villages. Matthew Williams visits to discover the secrets of its longevity

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

This edition of Surrey Life features all the local ingredients to make this month special

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search