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The Real Thing – Arts Theatre, Cambridge

Writer: Tom Stoppard

Director: Kate Saxon

Reviewer: Jack Trott

[rating:3.5]

 

The world may change, people may change, politics may change but the age-old subject of relationships seemingly do not, as is the case in this Tom Stoppard play. Originally written and set in 1982 this play is as relevant now as it was then and does not appear dated in any way, apart from maybe having to explain to a youngster those black discs they keep putting on that box are records and they do play music.

In this collaboration between English Touring Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Director, Kate Saxom, has not reworked The Real Thing more over has revisited the original with authenticity, the furniture, the music, the clothes all seem genuinely thirty years old, however the themes of love, infidelity, peace protests are still as poignant.

Gerald Kyd as Henry, the playwright, gives a master-class in English stage acting, strong, centred and ultimately believable, always subtly in control and relaxed, his every thought given to the audience as he stares out from stage. Equally strong is Sarah Ball, as his wife Charlotte, producing a chemistry between the two that prevails throughout the play even after their relationship breaks down.

A chemistry lacking slightly between Henry and Annie (Marianne Oldham), his younger new girlfriend who was perhaps a little too prudish on-stage for believability and reality.

The first act seems to trudge on, mirroring the opening scene with many references and quotes from it appearing throughout the rest of the act, the unfaithful revealed, new homes made, the characters develop in perhaps a deliberately flippant manner. This makes the only interest seemingly being the sub-plot story of a soldier come peace protester rather than any care for the fragility of the entwined characters. It is only in the second act that the grit and the passion come to the fore, drawing those cares in and hitting hard. Touchingly real scenes thrust emotions out never more so than between estranged father, Henry, and his daughter, Debbie (Georgina Leonidas), that started with a little humour but ended with sensitivity and honesty.

An ingenious revolving set make scene changes fascinating with astute direction and lighting, characters left lingering on-stage, gradually moving into the dark, intensifying the physicality of the sensations.

On national tour until 7th July

 

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