Review: Laurence Fox in The Real Thing at Cambridge Arts Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:38 12 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:45 12 September 2017

Laurence Fox as Henry in The Real Thing at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Laurence Fox as Henry in The Real Thing at Cambridge Arts Theatre

Archant

In his play The Real Thing, Tom Stoppard has a touch of the Luigi Pirandello’s. The Italian dramatist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936, liked to draw his audiences up the garden path. His characters have multiple accounts of who they are or what has happened to them. We wait on the edge of our seats to find out the truth, only to be told, finally, that there is no truth, it is all a matter of perception. “You decide”.

Stoppard’s play, written and set in 1982, complete with typewriter and vinyl records, is about love and illusion, marriage and infidelity among three actors and one playwright. (Creatives, the people least likely to be in touch with reality, even it if does exist.).

We see a scene and take it at face value, then realise later, that what we saw was a play. But then life immitates art. The artists’ own love lives are as kaleidescopic as those of their characters as they serially seek the real thing.

Indeed, as Stoppard was writing, his own life followed suit. He left his wife Miriam Stoppard for the actress Felicity Kendall after she starred in The Real Thing.

As ever with Stoppard, the play has precision writing. The Cambridge Arts Theatre audience was chuckling throughout.

But even a masterpiece becomes flawed with a dull production. Delightful as Cambridge Arts Theatre’s home grown pieces consistently are, this is not of their usual standard. The cameo roles (Kit Young as Billy, Santino Smith as Brodie and Venice Van Someren as Debbie) have the most life. The weakest member of the cast is the lead, Laurence Fox who plays Henry and around whom the story is woven.

Fox begins by mumbling so that it’s difficult to hear what he is saying and when you do hear it, it is flat, as if he is reading the lines. Possibly, the aim is to create a sardonic personna like the journalist Will Self but not until the end of the play is a character of any depth created. Other performances are competent but not strong enough to make you care. Sadly, this needs some work before it becomes the real thing.

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