A play which touches on issues of truth, love, adultery, politics and flawed behaviour (which is at times irritating but all too human).

Tom Stoppard’s play was first performed in 1982 and this current production at the King’s Theatre is a curious hotchpotch of vintage and contemporary (with regards to clothes anyway) while obviously, the political issues of the original play have shifted. But politics aside, the ‘main’ topic revolves around love and here we have successful, righteous and arrogant playwright Henry (Laurence Fox) cheating on his wife Charlotte (Rebecca Johnson). Thing is, that’s not how the play begins: in fact it begins with Charlotte cheating on Henry with the very decent Max (Adam-Jackson Smith) – a sequence from Henry’s play – while Max’s spouse Annie (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) happens to be Henry’s love interest in the real world. If that sounds confusing enough things will get more confusing as the play goes on, interpolated with extracts from Henry’s play but due to the constant set changes (which happen too often) it’s not always easy to figure out which scene is Stoppard’s play and which is Henry’s… For example, Annie is increasingly smitten with Brodie (Santino Smith), a Scottish playwright whose literary efforts and political views are at loggerheads with those of Henry’s. To add insult to injury, Annie makes her way to Glasgow where rehearsals for one of Brodie’s plays take place and en route seems to develop a bit of a thing for male actor Billy (Kit Smith). Meanwhile, Henry and Charlotte’s adolescent daughter Debbie (Venice Van Someren) has her own issues to trash out. So ostensibly, this deeply theatrical number centres around the overlarge ego of award-winning playwright Henry and his views and prejudices. He does get his comeuppance when Annie turns out to be a bit of a butterfly who likes to change directions.

THE REAL THING is by far not the best of the prolific Sir Tom's efforts compared to the epic extravaganza that was TRAVESTES or come to that, the inherent charm of his first entry: the inspired ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. However, Stoppard knows his trade only too well and there is still plenty of his only too obvious talent and wit on show with this slightly dated piece. Naturally a great many of us will equate with their situation. As to be expected with Stoppard, the play is peppered throughout with witty dialogue and one-liners but it is nevertheless still very 1982 and it isn't that difficult to see what's coming round the corner.

The problem here is that this play really is far better suited to a smaller, more intimate theatre space. Laurence Fox is a fair enough lead although during the first half of the play he was the least audible. Santino Smith as the naive ex-con Scottish playwright poo-poohed by Henry was an absolute hoot to watch - juxtaposing Henry’s upper middleclass with his own brash and to-the-point Scots accent. Watch out for the cricket bat joke, a real slice of Stoppardesque this! The leading ladies deliver a fine job too! Not an unrewarding night out and mercifully no slacking but then, Sir Tom was always neat.

(THE REAL THING will be on national tour until November 4th