It only had its press night last night and has had rave reviews today, but I'm afraid I won't be adding to them myself. If the programme notes are to be believed, The Real Thing
is Tom Stoppard's response to accusations that his plays are too clever by half, an attempt to prove that he could
write about love in a way that was emotionally engaging. Where the programme and I will have to part company is on whether or not it actually succeeds in this - I have to say I couldn't feel anything for the central characters, so despite a lot of good lines that, admittedly, had me laughing out loud often enough, I ultimately found myself bored by the end.
The casting of the leads in Anna Mackmin's production doesn't help; Toby Stephens has many good qualities as an actor but likeability isn't one of them (in fact he's at his best playing out-and-out bad guys) and although Henry, a playwright who cheats on his wife with Annie (also married to someone else) is hardly meant to be loveable, it was hard for me to see enough light and shade in his character to care about his intellectual and emotional dilemmas when Annie proceeds to cheat on him in turn. Add the fact that Annie is played by Hattie Morahan, an actress I've never warmed to, and I was always going to have trouble. As Morahan heavy-breathed her way through the play let's just say my opinion of her didn't change much. By contrast, the roles of the two jilted spouses go to the much more engaging Barnaby Kay and Fenella Woolgar, and it's a shame we see so little of them compared to the central duo of smugness. (I have also decided I'd very much like to *do things* to Barnaby Kay.)
Lez Brotherston's set certainly looks pretty, but I'm sure the box design affected the acoustics and some lines got lost. Still, I'm clearly in a minority - as well as the critics most of the audience tonight seemed to love it, as did vanessaw
, the big Stoppard fan among my friends. Then again Vanessa was the person who liked Madame de Sade
so don't listen to her, she's a mental.The Real Thing
by Tom Stoppard is booking until the 5th of June at the Old Vic.