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Stage Review: The Real Thing At The Yvonne Arnaud

by Tricia Marcotti

The Real Thing was written by Tom Stoppard in 1982 but is easily as relevant today as it was when first performed.

Now on at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, it was a little confusing to watch as the initial scene was actually a scene from a play written by the main character Henry (ably performed by Laurence Fox). Once I had made the leap, and picked up on some of the comments uttered by the actors, I settled down to enjoy the remainder of the play.

The set is designed to allow the scene changes to happen tidily, but also allows a minimum of fuss to interrupt the audience enjoyment. The stage crew are quick with the changes, allowing the play to unfold in a natural manner.

Laurence Fox (as Henry). Dress Rehearsal of The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard (a co-production by Cambridge Arts Theatre with Theatre Royal Bath and Rose Theatre, Kingston). Cambridge Arts Theatre. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK. September 06, 2017. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Laurence Fox as Henry in Tom Stppard’s The Real Thing using a cricket bat to enlighten Charlotte on the merits of Brodie’s play. Photo: Edmond Terakopian.

Music from the 1970s and 80s threaded through the plot. I could hear people around me singing quietly along at various points in the production. Full marks for the choice of tracks!

I had wondered how Laurence Fox would make the transition to the stage (as I know that filming is never a linear practice), but I needn’t have worried. If he missed any lines, it was not apparent to the audience. As the main character Henry, Laurence was seldom off the stage, managing the costume changes adroitly.

When we first met Henry, it was obvious he was a successful man as he was choosing tracks for his appearance on Desert Island Discs.

Laurence Fox (as Henry). Dress Rehearsal of The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard (a co-production by Cambridge Arts Theatre with Theatre Royal Bath and Rose Theatre, Kingston). Cambridge Arts Theatre. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK. September 06, 2017. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

Henry lstening and choosing tracks for Desert Island Discs. Photo: Edmond Terakopian.

Rebecca Johnson as Charlotte, was the very essence of a young woman in love at the beginning of the evening. By the end, we were given a more mature version of that woman, still in love.

As in real life, there were bumps along the way. First, Max (Adam Jackson-Smith) whom Charlotte is married to at the beginning of the play, had to be told she was leaving him for Henry. And Henry’s wife Annie (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) and daughter Debbie (Venice Van Someren) needed to be informed also. Somehow, it did not go according to plan. Just like in real life!

Laurence Fox (as Henry) and Flora Spencer-Longhurst (as Annie). Dress Rehearsal of The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard (a co-production by Cambridge Arts Theatre with Theatre Royal Bath and Rose Theatre, Kingston). Cambridge Arts Theatre. Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, UK. September 06, 2017. Photo: Edmond Terakopian

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

While the ups and downs of married life drove the play, there were subplots as well. Henry is a playwright, Charlotte, Annie and Max are actors, with a lively introduction of plays in the background. Charlotte and Max had been on a march where a young soldier called Brodie (Santino Smith) had an altercation with the police and went to prison. Charlotte felt guilty and was trying to get his sentence reduced or quashed. This led to Brodie writing a play which Charlotte wanted to get staged. Which in turn led to an animated discussion with Henry over the merits of Brodie’s writing.

This is good production of Tom Stoppard’s play. I listened to audience comments both during the interval and as we left the theatre and all were positive.

The Real Thing is on at the Yvonne Arnaud until Saturday, November 11 – matinee performances on Thusday and Saturday. Tickets from the box office on 01483 440000 or online by clicking here.

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