Does art truly reflect real life, or the other way round?  This play by Tom Stoppard, first performed in 1982, explores the possibilities and consequences.  It examines the nature of honesty, and its use of a play within a play is one of many levels on which the author teases the audience with the difference between semblance and reality.  The play focuses on the relationship between Henry and Annie, an actress who is part of a committee to free Brodie, a Scottish soldier imprisoned for burning a memorial wreath during a protest.  

‘Sparklingly witty, genuinely moving and thought-provoking, The Real Thing sees Stoppard at the height of his powers. This play is one of his most enduring and richly acclaimed works (Evening Standard Award: Best Play, Drama Desk Award: Outstanding New Play, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award: Best Play, Tony Award: Best Play)’ ( Daily Telegraph).

Sir Tom Stoppard is a prolific writer of drama for the stage, radio, TV and film, and is in the news recently for his work on ‘Parade’s End’ and ‘Anna Karenina’.  He was a refugee from the Nazis: born Tomas Straussler in 1937, his parents fled Czechoslavakia in 1939 and the family settled in the UK in 1946.  Themes of human rights, censorship and political freedom pervade his work along with exploration of linguistics and philosophy.  Stoppard has been a key playwright at the National Theatre and is one of the most widely performed dramatists of his generation.  ‘The Real Thing’ was written in 1982 and is an example of his later work, when he moved away from ‘argumentative’ works and more towards plays of the heart, as he became ‘less shy’ about emotional openness.  It has been claimed that The Real Thing is at least semi-autobiographical – based on the observation that he left his then wife Miriam Stoppard to begin an affair with Felicity Kendal, who coincidentally played Annie when the play was first staged.  In fact this affair occurred some years after the play was written, but keen students of Stoppard may well see much of him in Henry.

 (thanks to Wikipedia)

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