‘The Real Thing’ at West Yorkshire Playhouse

I’d seen two productions of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing before I went to see it West Yorkshire Playhouse last week.

I dredged through my memory and conjured up recollections of Roger Rees, and possibly Felicity Kendal from the early 1980s; although inevitably this was expressed (approximately) as ‘You know, that actor, long face, who was Nicholas Nickleby in that big RSC production, went to the US and popped up as eccentric Brits in random American series….played a drunk former spy in the West Wing.  What was his name?’

And from more recently, although still some time ago….Jennifer Ehle (You know…. the actress who played Elizabeth Bennet in the ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with Colin Firth; her) and Stephen Dillane (You’d know his face…Angels in America at the National in the 1990s and I’m fairly sure he played Karenin in a TV Anna Karenina…).

Given that I could remember so much about the actors involved, it was not an unreasonable question when one of my companions last week asked me what the play was about.


There’s a lot of bickering, everyone takes it in turns to wear the dressing gown and there’s a long speech about a cricket bat.

Doesn’t sound like the makings of a drama does it?

On the one hand it’s good: I was able to sit and watch the drama unfold without anticipating what was going to happen next; on the other hand, it doesn’t speak very highly of the memorability of the plot nor indeed  the point of the play (being neither the fashion of dressing gowns nor the playing of cricket).

The production at the WYP was entertaining, cleverly staged, making full use of the stage revolve and with light touches on the 1980s aesthetic sensibility, but they have the text of the play against them; the brittleness of all the characters and the flimsiness of the final denouement made it more of a light bite than something to get your emotional or intellectual teeth into.

I suspect the thing that I will remember from this production was the delicious interval ice cream, and the fact that when asked, all I could remember was the bickering, the dressing gown and the cricket bat.

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