Chester Little Theatre with Chester Theatre Club presented :
The Real Thing by Tom Stoppard
A Review by Rose McInerney
Though not new to the theatre scene, I was pleasantly delighted upon my first visit to the Little Theatre for ‘The Real Thing’ by Tom Stoppard. This theatre is tucked out of the way down a side street but has produced some fantastic theatre despite it’s little namesake, including ‘The Lark’ and the recent ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to mention just a few. After a brief drink the the theatre’s equally little bar with my fellow theatre goer and blogger Meghan Caldwell, I eagerly joined the flow of people upstairs. When I’d finally settled in, I realised the theatre must be close to a full house, and this tucked away location must not be as well kept a secret as I thought. And so many people could naturally not be wrong.
The opening scene gives the audience of a little play within a play action, but this quickly gives way to the actor’s lives outside their theatre personas. We follow mainly an actor – Annie – and a playwright – Henry’s relationship, from burgeoning romance borne in the midst of an illicit affair. Meetings and trysts are kept secret from their respective other halves while their love thrives, through to a seemingly cosy domesticity with squabbles galore. Their love is not without its casualties along the way however, as we see lives torn apart and hearts broken by what could be described as a selfish love. By their very nature though, these two are so very aware of themselves and their over the top nature that lead to their careers that they can also see their own selfishness and almost seem to thrive in it. Though of course, that is something for the individual to decide for themselves.
As with any relationship, the shine on Henry and Annie’s love dissipates over the course of the first act until, by the interval, we no longer truly know where we stand. This sense of unease for the audience is continued through to the second half in which Annie goes away to Scotland for a play and meets someone who has the potential to tear the lovers apart. Without giving too much away, Henry finds his play, which we saw a snippet from at the very start, echoed in his real life. Disquieted by this parallel, he lets things slowly fall apart and things are left at a very uneasy end.
This play wonderfully written, with characterisation performed so well as to see their true natures just in glances between lines. Artists such as these often live very dramatic lives and therefore find their art reflected in the relationships around them. Henry find’s this in his love of words being shared and used by his daughter to twist his own sayings and beliefs back at him, Annie finds her own need for passion and hatred for boredom thrown in her face as it juxtaposes her very real, but often fraught, love for Henry. As the audience watches characters such as these move through life, both dismay and desire are brought to the fore, but such a close mimic of real life, when found in art, is often disquieting. The audience can clearly see themselves in these characters, but also hopes they can overcome the obstacles and mistakes these true to life characters make.
Chester Theatre club clearly have some amazing talent to show off,as evidenced by this play. I very much look forward to seeing their next production as I’m sure it will be something truly wonderful to behold.