The Real Thing, Norwich

CHARLES ROBERTS Master wordsmith, magician of words, creator of language which sings with inspirational music, spirit-uplifting playwright, effortlessly sharp wit sparking laughter at every move – Tom Stoppard is all these things.c

CHARLES ROBERTS

Master wordsmith, magician of words, creator of language which sings with inspirational music, spirit-uplifting playwright, effortlessly sharp wit sparking laughter at every move – Tom Stoppard is all these things.

Yet more, he's a philosopher too of the human condition, as this week's The Real Thing at the Theatre Royal warmly, glowingly celebrates.

Within this one play there is material for a couple of treatises, which holds the audience on a gossamer line of attention. Here, glittering in a silver web of argument, is love in and out of wedlock, love in love with love and, at the close, a testing of that greatest treasure of all, love which is the real, the enduring thing.


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Then there is Stoppard's oblation to words, and to the reverence due to them. In an era when the English tongue is being dumbed down and degraded on the altar of media and mediocrity, there are speeches in The Real Thing which are like a final and heroic cry for the salvation of “the excellencie of the English tongue”.

Henry, a playwright who curiously has much in common with his creator, is given most of the best lines. John Gordon Sinclair, confidently bestriding this mighty role, takes to the air with them, with a soft, gentle Scottish burr which plays upon the ear like a Celtic harp. True, the music with which he invests the language sings too much in the higher registers. But the guarded emotion which in the end, movingly, drops all its defences, commands the audience's total recognition and belief – in such interludes in last night's packed auditorium, the silence was absolute.

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Max is married to Annie. They, like Charlotte who is married to Henry, are actors. In their private lives, life follows art, for the two marriages founder, opening the way for a new forging of relationships. Michael Lumsden is Max, suggesting a man whose acting is purely naturalistic, until he loses Annie and fact and fiction collide. From this fusion he learns true anguish, which Lumsden the actor controls superbly.

Liz Crowther is Charlotte, presenting vividly a woman of unexpected strength who, when Henry deserts her, steps into a life of freer values and emerges more beautiful, more serenely mature, from the experience.

Suzan Sylvester is Annie, whom she projects enchantingly. We watch every development, every facet of character, of a woman determined to take that which she wants from life; but the wanting takes her too far and comes near to destroying the best of what she has achieved.

Her scene with Henry, in which her act of fidelity stretches love to its limits, is hypnotic theatre. But Henry and Annie are lucky: they have found the Real Thing.

t Box office: 01603 630000.

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