The Real Thing

Original London West End Production (Strand Theatre) - 1982

1st London West End Revival (Donmar Warehouse / Albery Theatre) - 1999/2000

2nd London West End Revival (Old Vic Theatre) - 2010


Play by Tom Stoppard. A play about love and marriage first performed in 1982. In shifting perspectives, couples founder and reform, joy and passion are acutely countered by pain and deception. "You want to give it time" says Annie to Harry, her married lover, "time to go wrong, change, spoil. Then you know it wasn't the real thing." Deeply moving and startlingly funny, Tom Stoppard's play is a razor sharp drama that brilliantly examines the complex nature of love, art and reality.

Tom Stoppard's West End plays include Arcadia, Indian Ink, Jumpers, Rock'n'Roll, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Shakespeare In Love and Travesties. Stoppard's translations for the London stage include Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard directed by Sam Mendes and starring Ethan Hawke at the Old Vic Theatre in 2009; Anton Chekhov's Ivanov directed by Michael Grandage and starring Kenneth Branagh at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2008; and Gerald Sibleyras' Heroes directed by Thea Sharrock starring Richard Griffiths, John Hurt and Ken Stott at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2005.


Original London West End Production (Strand Theatre) - 1982

Previewed 3 November 1982, Opened 16 November 1982, Closed 16 February 1985 at the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre) in London

The original cast (up to 20 August 1983) featured Roger Rees as 'Henry', Felicity Kendal as 'Annie', Jeremy Clyde as 'Max' and Polly Adams as 'Charlotte' with Michael Thomas as 'Billy', Suzanne Hamilton as 'Debbie' and Ian Oliver as 'Brodie'. Directed by Peter Wood with designs by Carl Toms.

During the run, the role of 'Henry' was initially taken over by Paul Shelley and then by Michael Pennington until the show closed; and the role of 'Annie' was initially taken over by Susan Penhaligon, then by Jenny Quayle, and finally by Lucy Gutteridge until the show closed.


1st London West End Revival (Donmar Warehouse / Albery Theatre) - 1999/2000

Previewed 27 May 1999, Opened 2 June 1999, Closed 7 August 1999 at the Donmar Warehouse in London
Transferred 13 January 2000, Closed 18 March 2000 at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) in London

The sell-out Donmar Warehouse production returns to the West End for a strictly limited nine week season prior to transferring to Broadway.

The cast at the Donmar Warehouse featured Stephen Dillane as 'Henry', Jennifer Ehle 'Annie', Nigel Lindsay as 'Max' and Sarah Woodward as 'Charlotte' with Mark Bazeley as 'Billy', Caroline Hayes as 'Debbie' and Joshua Henderson as 'Brodie'.

The West End cast at the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) featured Stephen Dillane as 'Henry', Jennifer Ehle 'Annie', Nigel Lindsay as 'Max' and Sarah Woodward as 'Charlotte' with Oscar Pearce as 'Billy', Charlotte Parry as 'Debbie' and Joshua Henderson as 'Brodie'.

Directed by David Leveaux with designs by Vicki Mortimer, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by John A Leonard.

"There is no stopping the revival of Tom Stoppard's wise and witty examination of that thing called love. The sparkling Donmar Warehouse production has now moved into the West End and will be shortly heading across the Atlantic. If there is any justice, the two stars will be arriving with a trophy each to show off to the Yanks. Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle are in the running for best actor and best actress in this month's Olivier Awards. They play a playwright and actress whose love affair wrecks two marriages. The sexual chemistry between them is so intense that people in the front stalls would be wise to give chocolates a miss in case they melt. Stoppard writes from the heart. He had a well-publicised fling with Felicity Kendall and knows all about adultery and the excitement and heartbreak it can bring. Dillane is superb as the wordsmith whose head is full of '60s pop songs and razor-sharp ripostes. Ehle is wonderful as the mistress who eventually marries him and then takes a young lover herself. Catch it before it moves to Broadway." The Daily Mirror

"This lushly appointed revival - starring Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle as the lovers - famously starts as a play within a play in the heart of literary London. Dillane has never been better as the witty, self-deprecating wordsmith whose affair rebounds on him in the last act. Sarah Woodward is terrific as his wife (although no woman would have written a betrayed woman as cheerily forgiving as this)... However, I hadn't realised how incapable The Real Thing is of inspiring real emotion.. Stuffed with perceptive insights and a remouseless amount of badinage, there is a lot of quality writing here, but surprisingly little speech. David Leveaux's studio production looks a little exposed in the much larger Noel Coward Theatre and musically it feels dated. Henry, with his self-confessed taste in bad pop music, has - 20 years on - been sabotaged by modern retro culture. Neil Sedaka may still be naff, but the Righteous Brothers, the Monkees and Brenda Lee? Nowadays they are a credit to one's record collection." The Daily Express

"In The Real Thing - surely Tom Stoppard's most nearly autobiographical work to date - the playwright Henry is both a witty maker of well-made plays and a twice-married man who adores being in love and who learns, late in the day, to suffer the torments of sexual jealousy. But The Real Thing is about many things. It is about plays within a play. It is about plays as works of both writerly craft and personal statement. It is about multiple connections between life and art. And about taste, originality, reinvention. It is Private Lives as written for grown-ups about grown-ups by a grown-up. It is about form and content. It is both exceptionally witty and exceptionally heartfelt but also so fast it seldom allows one a chance either to laugh out loud or to feel any undivided emotion... Each time I see Stephen Dillane, who here plays Henry, I see more clearly what a great actor he is. His playing is so economical and his style so devoid of vocal or physical glamour that, at first, you hardly notice him himself: only what he is doing. He dissolves himself into the character and the play, and everything he does is converted into expression: the lift of an eyebrow, the shading of a syllable... he carries with effortless spontaneity the many-faceted core of Stoppard's many-layered play, and delivers with marvellously natural eloquence the startlingly authoritative speeches about good plays and bad, about the insularity of passion, and about acknowledging the attractions of other people. Thanks to him, and thanks to Stoppard, one travels a large journey of heart and mind in this production." The Financial Times

"One of the hardest tricks in theatre is to get actors to hold each other close, kiss and caress without the audience squirming in their seats at the clunkiness of it all. Very few directors can pull this off. David Leveaux is one... Leveaux has cast this revival very cleverly with two enormously attractive actors in the leads. As Henry, the wispy, pedagogic playwright, Stephen Dillane is perfect because he can act intelligence naturally. He convinces us that there's no line that Stoppard could come up with that mightn't have occurred to him on his own... Jennifer Ehle's luminous performance is fascinating for the way it walks a tightrope between smiles and tears without turning cute. As Annie, the actress moving between husbands, Ehle is eloquent and forceful. Even in her extreme emotional moments, she never loses her resonance... Stoppard loves to play with plays within plays. And it's central to this remarkably funny and honest play. Seventeen years on, it looks in tremendous shape. If anything it hasn't dated: Henry's preference for the Everly Brothers over Pink Floyd, has proved to be retro ahead of its time." The Independent on Sunday

The Real Thing in London at the Donmar Warehouse previewed from 27 May 1999, opened on 2 June 1999 and closed on 7 August 1999, transferred to the Albery Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre) from 13 January 2000 and closed on 18 March 2000


2nd London West End Revival (Old Vic Theatre) - 2010

Previewed 10 April 2010, Opened 21 April 2010, Closed 5 June 2010 at the Old Vic Theatre in London.

The cast features Toby Stephens as 'Henry', Hattie Morahan as 'Annie', Barnaby Kay as 'Max' and Fenella Woolgar as 'Charlotte' with Tom Austen as 'Billy', Louise Calf as 'Debbie' and Jordan Young as Brodie'. Directed by Anna Mackmin with designs by Lez Brotherston, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Simon Baker.

Toby Stephens' recent West End theatre credits include Jonathan Kent's revival of William Wycherley's The Country Wife (Haymarket Theatre 2007) and the title role in Michael Boyd's RSC revival of Hamlet (Noel Coward Theatre 2004). Hattie Morahan's London theatre credits include Arsenic And Old Lace (Novello Theatre 2003).

"What is love, and can we find adequate words to describe it? These are the universal themes dealt with in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. First performed in 1982, it is in some ways the least tricksy of plays by a writer whose calling cards are philosophical fireworks, ironic shifts of perspective and fiercely clever verbal punning. But nothing is ever straightforward with Stoppard, and to elucidate his theme he cannot resist reflecting it in mirrors within mirrors within mirrors. The result is a meditation on the agony and ecstasy of betrayal and infatuation, which, while toying with the idea that these things are inexpressible, nevertheless goes ahead and expresses them with breathtaking elegance. Toby Stephens, who plays Henry, a relentlessly facetious playwright, is magnetic in the lead role. Hattie Morahan, as Annie, his lover, struggles to escape the ghost of Felicity Kendal, but she is less winsome than Kendal and brings a steely edge which I have not seen in previous Annies. In short, Anna Mackmin's production more than lives up to the play's title." The Sunday Telegraph

"Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing is generally agreed to be his first play that gave us emotional heft - and hints of autobiography. It offers plenty of his customary intellectual dazzle, too, being chock-full of tasty Stoppardian jokes about Sartre and Joyce, of the kind that makes a certain type of theatregoer guilty: they're just too middleclass and complacent, too clever and too much fun, and we ought to be worrying about social and political issues. I enjoy them immensely. The Real Thing opens with a man accusing his wife of adultery... It turns out these two are actors in a play within a play: a characteristic Stoppard trick, not least in its perfectly crafted match between form and argument about appearance and reality, true love and acting. The play is the work of a louche, witty, arrogant yet emotionally prudish writer called Henry. He is played to perfection by Toby Stephens, who you feel must have been born with that rakish, lopsided smile and those raised eyebrows, gazing around the maternity ward with wry amusement... Hattie Morahan is all over the place as Annie, but that's because Annie is all over the place, not Morahan. Less the greedy, life-devouring vamp than the scatty obsessive, with a twitchy mouth, manic grin and a hint of the bunny-boiler, she's a slightly alarming presence, possibly too alarming for Henry's peaceful tastes... This is a quality revival of one of Stoppard's finest, full of art, love and wit. It's also full of humour, a less showy and kindlier thing, which ought to be etymologically related to "human" and "humane", but sadly isn't. There's a sharp eye for foibles and failings, and a generous, forgiving sense of the human race as a community of lovable losers." The Sunday Times

"Here's a Tom Stoppard play at its finest. To nick a phrase from it-referring to a play written by the hero Henry - 'it's about who's having it off with whom'. Of course Henry, played by the exquisite Toby Stephens, protests it's about more. He soon finds himself entangled in 'the more' in his own life, when his love affair with actress Annie (Hattie Morahan) explodes in the middle of their marriages. The agony and ecstasy of the fallout is so real-with Fenella Woolgar playing his wife and Barnaby Kay as Annie's husband-it's breathtaking. With such lightness of direction by Anna Mackmin, it's a real piece of work." The News of the World

"Like Harold Pinter's Betrayal, it's a rare and brilliant thing, a play about love that engages the heart and the mind, and Anna Mackmin's sparky revival is as dazzling and as nuanced as it should be. It was a departure for Stoppard when he wrote it in 1982. For the first time he abandoned intellectual pyrotechnics and concentrated instead on the portrayal of the rapturous, raw and wretched human emotion that is love... The playwright's fictional account of a husband's discovery of his wife's infidelity - a limitless supply of clever lines and witty put-downs - contrasts sharply with the scene in which he experiences the 'real' thing. Henry's detachment deserts him. Words fail him. All he can muster is mute animal anguish. There's an attractive Hugh Grant-ish quality about Toby Stephens's Henry, which has something to do with his floppy hair. Hattie Morahan's breathy, flirty, flustered but fervent Annie bowls him over. There's a real (by which I mean wonderfully well acted) sexual charge between them, but her betrayal knocks him for six. My cricketing metaphor is intentional. In the play's most famous speech, Henry explains that his job is to write cricket bats 'so that when we throw up an idea and give it a knock, it might... travel'. Stoppard's powerfully dramatised ideas about the messy, conflicting constituents of love - and his belief that the real thing can both forgive and endure - travel well over the boundary." The Mail on Sunday

The Real Thing in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 10 April 2010, opened on 21 April 2010 and closed on 5 June 2010.