Article Title:Verbal gluttony in The Real Thing
Author or Credit:Larry Jenkins
Published on:2nd September 2007 - 04:24 pm
Internet Archive link:
Story ID:4870
Text:Claire Chitham in The Real Thing Review: The Real Thing, by Tom Stoppard With Cameron Rhodes, Theresa Healey, Stephen Lovatt, Claire Chitham, Paul Ellis, Michelle Blundell and Brian Rankin. Directed by Shane Bosher at the Silo Theatre, Auckland Words, words, Words!!! A Stoppard play can be guaranteed to contain verbal gluttony, and “The Real Thing, etc.” is no exception. If this time the words are more personal than in, say, “Rosenkrantz …”, then it may be because this one is somewhat autobiographical, or seems so. The protagonist is a playwright, and his musical tastes actually do resemble the sort of thing Stoppard trotted out for his “Desert Island Discs” gong three years after “The Real Thing” debuted. But I suspect there it ends. Henry, the playwright in this vehicle, has actress wives – two in the space of a few hours – and, as we all know, Stoppard married a doctor. Stoppard would find too much art imitating life a bore. As Henry, Stephen Lovatt is very entertaining and often touching but always convincing. His British accent and inflection seldom falter, and the sarcasm and infuriating pedantry of Henry as he bullies and manipulates (ultimately unsuccessfully, as it turns out) the women in his life are here solidly conveyed. The women – Theresa Healey and Claire Chitham (most recently seen in Outrageous Fortune) as the wives and Michelle Blundell as his daughter – give good accounts of their struggle to maintain their identities under the assault of Henry's intellect and persuasion. I'm continually being surprised by the “new” Claire Chitham, not only by her abilities as an actress of some depth but by her extraordinary beauty, which the small screen did nothing to reveal. Of the two spouses, though, it was Theresa Healey who seemed the more British, and since Shane Bosher, quite rightly, required British accents, it was the duty of the cast to deliver. Most did, quite triumphantly, without too many kiwi vowels creeping in. In the scenes where Lovatt and Chitham square off for battle as wife defies husband and husband seeks to discourage wife from making an ass of herself, the sparks really flew, and both actors were riveting. Wife goes on to make ass of self, spectacularly as it happens, with Billy, played by Paul Ellis to perfection. The quotes from Ford's “Tis Pity She's a Whore” were delivered with appropriate classical cadence and passion, his seductive pull with the older woman utterly plausible. Michelle Blundell's affectionately defiant portrayal of Debbie, Henry's daughter, and Cameron Rhodes's cuckolded Max were examples of smaller parts played by actors of stature, and Brian Rankin as the boorish Brodie makes appropriate waves in his short appearance. Bosher has caught the essence of Stoppard. It is a clever production, with John Verryt's versatile set the star in production terms, the individual scenes separated by sliding doors and beautiful glassware in cases. The costume – lighting – sound team did a good job, though a couple of sound cues need some synchronising. The Real Thing continues at Auckland's SILO Theatre until September 29. Bookings on the link below. Larry Jenkins - 2nd September 2007    
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