To the Old Vic to see The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard, in preview. The play was originally performed in 1982 and the revival seems slightly oddly placed. A sign perhaps that theatre hasn't got much to say at the minute? Essentially it's a clever and witty musing on love, set in the world of the theatre where successful playwright Henry is having an affair with actress Annie, whilst Annie's husband Max and Henry's wife Charlotte star as a married couple in Henry's play where Charlotte's character is having an affair. The play's smart Pirandello twists offer Stoppard the chance to craft some beautiful lines particularly about the value and weight of words, both as seductive tools and as precise instruments for describing experience.
There are some excellent performances notably from Toby Stephens' as the charming and self-assured Henry and the ever wonderful Hattie Morahan, whose every guilt, doubt and fear reveals itself physically. Stephens' Henry is impossible to read; whilst Morahan's Hattie betrays 'the real thing' with each glance, gulp and gesture.
So it's a good night out and a great exercise in intelligent and skillful technique.
It's not a show to rock any foundations or hail a brave new world but then it doesn't to pretend to. It does what it says on the tin, leaving a comfortably well off and theatre literate audience to drift away and compare their own happiness and flaws against those of the characters they've just spent two hours in the company of.