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The Real Thing, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, until May 26
THIRTY years after its celebrated premiere with Roger Rees and Felicity Kendal leading the cast, Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing is being revived by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and English Touring Theatre.
Kate Saxon is directing Stoppard’s typically witty tale of brilliant and celebrated playwright Henry casting his wife Charlotte in the starring role of his new play, which examines the complexity of love and infidelity.
Reality and fiction blur when passions ignite and Henry’s own marriage becomes entwined with that of Charlotte’s co-star Max and his wife Annie. As Henry struggles to write a new work, the players in this game of deceit and lust are all searching, but can any of them find The Real Thing?
Step forward Kate Saxon to address that question in the latest directorial role of a career that has taken in theatre, opera and on-screen media.
“It’s a mammoth play to rehearse in only four weeks” she says. “The writing is so detailed, there’s a lot of work required to strip it back to the core, and once we understand what they’re saying and why they’re saying it, it’s about what’s in a word and why is it being used?
“That takes lots and lots of talking about what’s in a scene and what each character is wanting to hear back, as quite often Stoppard writes echoes in this play.
“There are echoes of previous scenes and echoes of relationships with other people: it’s that thing of searching for The Real Thing.”
That search can involve looking for the real thing in relationships, books, sex, and more. “There’s a suggestion by Stoppard that we’re on a constant merry-go-round looking for that real thing and we all make the same mistakes, although there’s hope at the end that there may be a way forward,” says Kate.
This production is Kate’s Stoppard debut. “He’s been very supportive. We’ve met a couple of times in London, and considering that he wrote this play 30 years ago, it’s fantastic that he still wants to discuss it – and it’s been a joy to discuss nuances and the dynamics of characters in detail,” she says.
• The Real Thing, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, tonight until May 26, then touring. Box office: 0113 213 7700 or wyp.org.uk