The show received superb reviews from the popular press last year, and it has again received good reviews with this run. I missed the play last year, so I was determined not to miss it this time. Is this production as good as the popular press make out? The answer is yes! It is an absorbing piece of theatre that has you gripped from the start with some clever writing and superb acting.
The play, written in 1982, concerns Henry, a writer who has an affair with the wife of an actor performing in his play about adultery! When their affair is discovered they leave their respective partners and set up home together. But as usual, things are never as good as expected. The story focuses on Henry's relationship with his lover Annie and how she first becomes insecure with him and then he with her. Stoppard's comically sharp writing gives us an insight into the complexity of love, adultery and jealousy.
It is the acting that makes this play stand out. Stephen Dillane (Henry) and Jennifer Ehle (Annie), both give phenomenal performances, particularly the former. Together, both actors produce an electrifying spark on stage resulting in convincing performances that enables you to almost feel the emotion. It is a remarkable performance from Dillane, who manages to create a 'strong' presence on stage without being loud or bombastic. He uses wit and grace, and facial features to create emotion to great effect. One also has to mention Sarah Woodward, who plays Henry's wife 'Charlotte', she too produces an excellent and solid performance. (Sarah won an Olivier award in 1998 for Best Supporting Actress, in "Tom and Clem" at the Aldwych Theatre.)
As I said, the popular press loved the show last year and they still love it…. JEREMY KINGSTON of THE TIMES says, "Dillane has that rare gift of suggesting he is creating his thoughts for the first time, hitting on verbal quirks as new to him as to us. Hitting himself on his pain too, as confirmed by the gradual ravaging of his face." NICHOLAS DE JONGH of THE EVENING STANDARD describes the play as "Scintillating", and Stephen Dillane's performance as "Remarkable". The FINANCIAL TIMES says, "Stephen Dillane gives one of the greatest performances that London has seen in recent years. It is easy to be enchanted by him, and finally to be deeply moved." CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "You'd be mad to miss this modern classic", and goes on to say, "A play of strength, grace, melancholy and wit."
The Real Thing is an absorbing play, which will keep you fully entertained for two and half-hours. Don't miss it!!