fox and annie

Laurence Fox as Henry and Flora Spencer-Longhurst as lover Annie

The Real Thing

Malvern Theatres


From the pen of playwright Tom Stoppard, this play isn't so much about love as his passion for writing.

It's a mixture of self-indulgence and some autobiographical elements for Stoppard as it centres around the love life of an acclaimed, witty writer (sound familiar?).

The most memorable scenes, however, are when the lead Henry is raging against bad writing and the honour of his profession. It's what he's most passionate about, more so than the women in his life.

The play gained acclaim when first performed in 1982 and now Laurence Fox, of TV detective drama Lewis and theatrical nobility of the Fox family, is taking a turn as writer Henry in this Theatre Royal Bath production.

Fox is very natural with his acting and has real stage presence too, although his voice projection was a little unclear in the first half.

There's an intensity in the language of Stoppard's work, but Fox gets through the wordplay with ease. He also expresses a vulnerable air of torment when Henry is faced with betrayal and the loss of his dignity.

Directed by Stephen Unwin, the story is kept bubbling along swiftly and linked through Henry's favourite music. It's quite a short play anyway at only two hours including an interval.

Despite fine acting from all of the small cast, my problem with this play was that I didn't find any of the characters except Henry very likeable.

Although Tom Stoppard wrote Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead along with co-writing the screenplay for movie Shakespeare in Love, this is not a play where much happens.

It's a relationship drama - so common in the 1970s to 1980s - that has become a little dated and is very much a focus on the inner world of actors and writers. That said, it's worth seeing this production for Fox's performance. To21-10-17

Alison Brinkworth


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