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The Real Thing review at Theatre Royal, Bath – ‘a sparkling revival’

Laurence Fox in The Real Thing. Photo: Edmond Terakopian Laurence Fox in The Real Thing. Photo: Edmond Terakopian
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Most of the plays in Tom Stoppard`s kaleidoscopic portfolio appeal to the intellect. But The Real Thing, an examination of the nature of honesty written 35 years ago but just as potent today, also explores the pain and pleasure of being in love.

The play, which when it premiered was viewed as a largely autobiographical piece, tells the story of married playwright Henry, who, captivated by new lover Annie, herself an actor, is suddenly confronted with writers` block when faced with writing about love.

Director Stephen Unwin`s sure-footed revival ensures that the juxtaposition of a play-within-a-play is particularly effective, as is Henry`s self-satisfied derision of lesser mortals in his profession. The Real Thing is full of Stoppardian bon mots as well as a wonderful speech about a cricket bat that celebrates one of the other loves of his life.

Laurence Fox conveys the combination of ruthlessness and vulnerability behind Henry`s eloquent exterior and there is both a sense of mischief and an underlying toughness to Flora Spencer-Longhurst`s scheming Annie; Rebecca Johnson is also formidable as his betrayed wife.

Music from the likes of the Righteous Brothers and Procol Harum, and a set by Jonathan Fensom that showcases G-plan furniture, serve to make the 1980s seem like only yesterday.

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Laurence Fox stars in a sparkling revival of Stoppard`s play about the agonies of being in love