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4:05pm Friday 8th June 2012 in Leisure
Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, Ilkley Playhouse
Tom Stoppard’s comedy-drama The Real Thing, running at Ilkley Playhouse until Saturday, is a Russian doll of a play – there are plays within plays.
The first scene is a confrontation between Max and his wife Charlotte whom he accuses of adultery. In the next scene the audience realises that what we have just witnessed is really the first act in a play written by Henry, and Charlotte is actually his wife. Soon we find out that Henry is having an affair with Max’s wife, Annie.
The play takes place over several years, encompassing the breakdown of both marriages, Henry and Annie living together, and the former rewriting a play written by Brodie, a young soldier who has been imprisoned for setting fire to a wreath at the Cenotaph – an act seen by Max as bravely political, and by the cynical Henry as naïve.
Walter Swan played Henry, moving from clever arrogance to abject cuckold and back to confident wit again in the last scene, with Sarah Potter’s Annie, alternating between anger and sorrow in their relationship.
Geraldine Woodhouse played Charlotte with the acidity and self confidence needed for the part, the latter trait echoed by May Hughes as Debbie, their 17 year old daughter. The naïve Max was well played by Lee Russell, and the hapless Brodie, played by Jason Evens, stood up for his working class rights with conviction, and took the custard pie on the head with aplomb. Billie, Annie’s young lover, was confidently played by Will Lambert.
Ultimately the play asks the question “What is the real thing, in art and love?”
Stoppard makes the case for the written word, with a clever extended cricketing metaphor, but as for love, the play seems ambivalent. Although Henry expresses romanticism and is distressed when he discovers that Annie has betrayed him, we leave the play with him being cynically effusive to Max who has phoned to tell him that he is remarrying. Can ‘the real thing’ exist in a romantic relationship?
Stoppard seems unsure. A clever, witty, thought-provoking play from one of our greatest living playwrights, this accomplished production is well worth seeking out.
- Until Saturday, 9th June at Ilkley Playhouse; box office (01943) 609539.
By Lesley Matthews