Stoppard's 1982 play focuses on Henry, a successful playwright who is married to Charlotte (Woolgar), an actress who is playing the lead in his current play about adultery. Her co-star and friend Max is married to Annie, also an actress, who has fallen in love with Henry. The company features Toby Stephens, Hattie Morahan, Barnaby Kay, Fenella Woolgar, Tom Austen, Louise Calf, and Jordan Young.
The critics' responses to the production -- and the play -- are seeming to be unanimous. Not only are they praising Mackmin's staging and the lead performers, but they are also finding new-found or rekindled appreciation for Stoppard's play.
Among the reviews are:
The Real Thing at the Old Vic, review
"It's a glorious play, in which Stoppard's wit and intellectual rigour is warmed by the glow of romance."
"But it is the emotion that makes the play special in Stoppard's canon and Anna Mackmin's stylish, superbly acted production makes the pain and passion count."
The Real Thing
"Back in 1982, when it was first seen, few would have guessed that this play would turn out to be amongst Tom Stoppard's most durable. But like that other study of bourgeois adultery, Harold Pinter's Betrayal, it gets richer with each viewing; and, even if Anna Mackmin's revival is not flawless, it deftly shows how Stoppard puts structural ingenuity to the service of emotional truth."
"Stephens's fine performance is matched by others of high calibre. Hattie Morahan's Annie, in the first moment she is left alone with Henry, captures perfectly the reckless excitement of love; and she goes on to chart the character's journey, via a momentary fling, to total commitment."
The Real Thing -- Theater Review
"Director Anna Mackmin is adept at balancing scenes that go from wisecracks to tears and back again, and she draws adroit and complex performances from her cast."
"With impressive command, Stephens inhabits Henry's world with the confidence of someone who believes he has all the emotional and intellectual means to glide through any entanglement only to discover that he is as vulnerable as the rest of us.
"Monrahan captures the giddy excitement of illicit infatuation but shows Annie growing with the realization that Henry's love might not be as all encompassing as she anticipated. Woolgar, with her gift for droll line readings, and Kay, who brings full measure to Max's distress, give the abandoned spouses vital presence."
The Real Thing at The Old Vic, SE1
"Anna Mackmin's fine revival sustains your interest in the unfurling plot and unravelling relationships but does equal justice to the play's considerable complexity. Note that teasing title. What, if anything, is the "real thing" in sex, in love, in friendship, in writing, even in politics?"
"Intricate stuff, fascinating stuff, the more so because Mackmin has got excellent performances from her principals. At first I found Morahan too elfin, too pixilated, but she quickly revealed herself as the sort of pixie, imp or sprite who isn't only wayward and mischievous but capable of injury. And Stephens seems frighteningly urbane as he delivers polished lines and smart retorts galore, yet he ends up being what the play demands. He's vulnerable. He hurts. He has deepened -- and so has Stoppard's work."
The Real Thing, Old Vic Theatre
"Anna Mackmin's direction keeps what could be static talk-filled scenes alive and engrossing throughout, fulfilling the play's desire to prove that eloquence and emotion can exist together and hold us dramatically."
The Real Thing
"Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing is gloriously revived at the Old Vic by director Anna Mackmin, not only as the play that in 1982 confirmed that Stoppard had a heart, but as a stylish comedy classic dealing in love, jealousy, pop music, political theatre and great jokes."
"And in the performances of Toby Stephens as the playwright Henry and Hattie Morahan as his actress lover and second wife Annie, we have the best romantic double act on the London stage in a very long time."
For further information, visit: www.oldvictheatre.com.