The Real Thing
Now playing at the Granville Island Stage, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing brings to life what happens behind-the-scenes of a relationship. After an insightful experience at Stoppard’s last play, The Constant Wife, CJSF correspondent Anna Santiago sat in the audience on March 21st to watch The Real Thing unveil.
Again, I had the chance to sit through one of Tom Stoppard’s plays, The Real Thing. Similar to Somerset Maugham's The Constant Wife, The Real Thing delves into the realm of relationships. However, in The Real Thing, Stoppard is more focused on the correlation between love and need. Directed by Michael Shamata, The Real Thing is yet another personification of Stoppard himself and what appears to be his emotional detachment and lack of belief in commitment.
The play begins with a confrontation between a man and his wife about her supposed infidelity. Cleverly enough, the scene is actually a scene from the play within this play. The man in this scene is Max, played by Simon Bradbury who recently appeared in Cyrano de Bergerac. The woman is Charlotte, played by Jennifer Clement. The playwright who wrote the play within this play is Henry, played by the eloquent Vincent Gale. Charlotte is married to Henry and Max is married to Annie (played by Jennifer Lines). The next chain of events takes the audience for a spin as the affair between Henry and Annie is exposed. It is only then that the real storyline finally unfolds.
The play then takes us along Henry and Annie’s journey as they become “a dignified couple by face not by feelings.” Here we witness how gratifying yet self-destructive loving someone can be. Again, Stoppard questions the motivation behind love and commitment through Henry and Annie. In the beginning, we see them happy, content and enjoying the freedom of being able to openly love each other. Then, we see both Henry and Annie stop caring for the other. We see them doing their own things and merely “becoming another’s possibility.” Yes, some parts tend to drag and appear to be out of place (like the “Justice for Brodie” subplot and the scenes involving Debbie). However, the play does reinvent itself with the powerful confrontation between Henry and Annie. Gale’s performance was moving and heartbreaking and Lines’ reaction to Henry’s heartbreak was redeeming. I must warn you that sitting through The Real Thing was like watching a daytime soap opera. It had the elements of individuality, conflicts, relationship, personal growth, success, failure and of course love. There is heavy drama involved which eventually leads to the happily ever after. Despite the trials that Henry and Annie had to face, we still get our happy ending. How they get there and what obstacles they face along the way are what made this play worth watching.
The Real Thing posed a big question, a question which is still and always will be applicable to our relationships: how do we love someone? Do we love someone because we need them? Or do we need them because we love them? These are valid questions and with Henry and Annie’s characters and their relationship with one another, Tom Stoppard cleverly put these questions out there.
Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing runs from March 05th to April 04th at the Granville Island Stage.
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