The Real Thing’s Henry is more intelligent than me says Lewis star Laurence Fox
- Credit: Archant
Lewis star Laurence Fox talks about coming to Cambridge Arts Theatre in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, an examination of infidelity.
The Real Thing centres around Henry, the best playwright of his generation. His actress wife Charlotte has been appearing in his play about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse.
Her leading man Max is also married to an actress, Annie - who’s having an affair with Henry. Realising life has started imitating art, Henry wonders are they really in love?
It’s written by multi-award winning playwright Tom Stoppard, known for plays like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia, The Hard Problem and The Invention of Love. He also co-wrote the Oscar winning Shakespeare in Love.
The Real Thing was first staged in London in 1982, going on to win multiple awards including the Tony for best play in 1994 and, 16 years later, the Tony for best revival of a play.
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Co-produced by Cambridge Arts Theatre, Theatre Royal Bath and Rose Theatre Kingston, it vists the first September 6-16 as part of a limited national tour.
Q: What are you most relishing about playing Henry?
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With the character of Henry I get the chance to play someone who is more intelligent than myself and who has the words in situations where words would fail me.
Q: For people who aren’t familiar with the play how would you describe him?
I’d sum Henry up as the last romantic. He believes in fidelity, loving someone even when they’re at their worst, going through life with one person. That’s a very romantic notion, isn’t it?
Q: Do you have anything in common with Henry and what are the big differences?
The things we have in common are I am the same height, look similar and sound the same. The big differences? That would be telling. Living in someone else’s head for a while, as you do as an actor, is an amazing thing to do and it changes you when you do it – not in a method-y kind of way but it changes the way you behave in real life. It’s interesting how that happens.
Q: The play premiered in 1982. Why do you think it has endured?
Because it was written by Tom Stoppard, our finest living dramatist. Some of it is just sublime, like all of his plays. He’s operating at a totally, massively heightened intellectual level and the language is utterly satisfying – it’s silky and expressive.
Q: Are there themes in The Real Thing you feel will resonate with contemporary audiences?
Well, it’s about love, fear, hope, loss and laughter. Those are themes at least I hope will resonate.
Q: Why do you think Stoppard is so revered as a playwright?
Because as he writes in the play, in a speech that Henry gives “what we’re trying to do is to write cricket bats, so that when we throw up an idea and give it a little knock, it might... travel”. Tom is very much like Shakespeare in a lot of ways. The tune of his language is very Shakespearean and also akin to Noel Coward and stuff like that. It’s wonderful to act if you get it right and [laughs] pretty terrible if you get it wrong.
Q: Is this the first time you’ve starred in one of his plays?
Yes. Technically there’s the fact it’s such an enormously precise play with long, big thoughts being expressed, so that’s a bit tricky when you are playing someone who is smarter than you are. Then the emotional challenge is being able to carry an audience through two hours. It’s tiring but also brilliant.
Q: How is it working with director Stephen Unwin?
Stephen is fantastic. He is precise, tenacious, incredibly supportive, loving, profoundly talented and he really hears Stoppard’s voice.
Q: What do you most enjoy about taking a show on tour?
England isn’t just London, the UK isn’t just London, so it’s amazing to be able to see culture everywhere and it’s lovely seeing how audiences in different parts of the UK react differently to different shows. It’s also lovely how the theatre is a hub for each town.
Q: Do you have any pre or post show rituals?
Pre-show it’s a little bit of meditation, a desperate sob and a prayer to The Almighty. Post-show it’s anything fizzy.
Q: What’s the one thing you couldn’t be without when you’re touring?
My wallet and a picture of my lovely boys.
Q: You’ve worked extensively across stage, TV and film. What have been your personal career highlights?
I most enjoyed working with Kevin Whately and the rest of the Lewis crew over all those years because they were such a fantastic bunch and I made some lifelong friends. I also enjoyed working with Jonathan Lynn [writer and director of The Patriotic Traitor at the Park Theatre], who was fantastic as well. Those are two highlights among many. As for where this job ranks [laughs] I’ll let you know when it’s over.
Q: What do you especially enjoy about stage work?
I enjoy the challenge and community of theatre. When you leave a play, you leave as a better actor.