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Real Thing, The

Henry is the smartest and sharpest playwright of his generation. His wife, Charlotte, an actress, has been appearing in a play by Henry about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. When Henry’s affair with Annie threatens to destroy his own marriage, he realises life has started imitating art. But are they really in love?  Is it the real thing? Read more …


First staged in 1982, The Real Thing combines the intellectual and dazzling wordplay of Stoppard at his most witty with some of his most tender and touching writing. A clever, poignant and entertaining examination of infidelity, The Real Thing is a multi award-winning modern classic.


A member of one of the UK’s leading acting dynasties, Laurence Fox is best-known for playing DS James Hathaway in Lewis from 2006-2015. Other television credits include A Room With A View and Wired. His film credits include Gosford Park and Becoming Jane and recent stage roles include Our Boys and Strangers on a Train.


Tom Stoppard’s many plays include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead and Arcadia and he co-wrote the screenplay for Shakespeare in Love. His numerous awards include the 2013 PEN Pinter Prize for “his determination to tell things as they are”.

The critical consensus

Its feminism is worth another cheer for Stoppard's great work.

****(*)Kris Hallett, Whats On Stage, 21/09/2017

Stoppard expertly writes both quotidian exchanges and philosophic contemplations. He succeeds in keeping his writing clunk-free, which as Henry would say is the force of a well-designed cricket bat squarely meeting an idea; The Real Thing is a soaring six.

*****Nicholas Potter, Plays to See, 11/10/2017

For what it is – a revival of a hit play by one of Britain’s wittiest, most accomplished playwrights – this isn’t bad. But there’s nothing here to explain why it’s been brought back, or just what its roll call of self-absorbed Bohemians has to say to 21st century audiences.

***(*)(*)Martin Gray, All Edinburgh Theatre, 25/10/2017

Stephen Unwin now directs a bittersweet yet warming revival, in exposing the effects of patriarchy on both men and women alike through the characters’ interaction with the god-like, yet apparently vulnerable, Henry, and yet not losing the basic theme of finding and keeping true love. Stoppard himself remains the expert as playwright.

****(*)Sarah Mcintosh, The Wee Review, 25/10/2017

Every element is stylish, every hair in place; Stoppard plays are food for his audience, and with this production we are treated to haute cuisine.

****(*)Imogen Rowe, Edinburgh Guide, 25/10/2017

The play’s weakness is its absence of authentic emotion – the one ‘real thing’ missing from all the characters’ lives, as we see them. If Fox struggles to convey Henry’s heartache in the play’s second half, it may only be because the play’s rigid intellectualism leaves little room for feeling in between the badinage and debate.

***(*)(*)Gareth Davies, The Reviews Hub, 26/10/2017

While some call this play a perfectly-constructed modern comedy of love and sex, to me it looks more like one of those gate-keeping devices designed to remind 90 per cent of the UK population that theatre is not really for them; or that if they do turn up, they will certainly never be the heroes of the plays they have paid to see.

***(*)(*)Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman, 27/10/2017

Where and when?

King's Theatre, Edinburgh from Tuesday October 24, 2017, until Saturday October 28, 2017. More info:

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