The Real Thing

Tue 25th – Sat 29th October 2011

reviews

Callum Underwood

at 22:48 on 25th Oct 2011

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The Real Thing is a play that manages to completely change the manner in which love is viewed. We all know that love is renowned for its complexity and honesty, yet it is only through the eyes of the writer, Tom Stoppard, that we can truly come to appreciate the role that it plays in our lives. However, I feel that it’s not only Stoppard’s witty and charming writing style that manages to engross the audience in the play, but also the co-ordination of the play itself.

For me, it was the acting of Jenny Scudamore, playing Annie, that managed to pull me in completely. At times, I felt myself moving away from the speaking actor to look solely at her reaction and facial expressions, both of which were so realistic that at times I forgot that I was sitting in a small, L-shaped theatre at all. However, it would be unfair to neglect the role of Robin Morton, whose acting managed to bring to life the complexity and uniqueness of Henry. For a character that is so difficult to relate to, Robin managed to add an element of humanity to his character that added a whole new level of substance. In part, this was aided by Stoppard’s writing, whose constant flow of witticisms left the audience literally laughing out loud. The ability to weave effortlessly between this comedy and the subtle seriousness that occurred towards the end is a talent that Stopping has down to an art-form.

As for the venue, I would say that it helped and hindered the play equally. Being in the Corpus Playroom, the theatre’s size and shape managed to create a sense of intimacy between the audience and the actors, literally feeling as if I was amongst the scene as actors moved down the aisles to leave the main stage. However, the L-shaped design did mean that it was difficult for the actors to position themselves so that everyone could see them clearly. For the most part, the space was utilised effectively, but I found myself veering right so that I could make out the expressions on people’s faces.

In my opinion, the number of special effects was absolutely optimal; not so many that they were noticeable but not too few that it was just down to the actors on stage. Sound effects occurred for the telephone and the doorbell ringing, but the only problem here was that we can hear the recording playing before the sound appears. This means that during a few scenes, whenever the recording started to play, I found myself anticipating the sound-effect as opposed to concentrating on the stage; or maybe this is just my attention span. Either way, it wasn’t a massive problem but something that could have been considered.

The transition between scenes was relatively smooth and we weren’t left in the dark for too long, which is always good. As the stage itself is small, the use of a curtain to indicate the train was quite clever and one that didn’t affect the overall flow of the play greatly. It did seem that some things were forgotten though between the scenes, which meant that it was difficult to feel like the stage was a whole new place. For example, the glasses that held the drinks from the first scene sat upon the bookshelf for an entire hour and a half, despite the fact that two years had passed. I know that not everyone clears away immediately but I hope that two years should have been long enough to move those glasses.

All in all, I feel that I should thank Tom Powell, Jack Gamble and Holly Stevenson, whose directing and producing skills managed to pull together a fantastic performance. The cast was extremely strong, and they all brought that extra substance to the character that made it more genuine and believable. I strongly urge you to watch this performance soon, as The Real Thing is definitely the real deal.

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Therice Morris

at 01:46 on 26th Oct 2011

2agrees

1disagrees

We all wonder at some point if we ourselves have found ‘the one’ and wonder what that truly means. The Pembroke Players' production of Tom Stoppard’s "The Real Thing" allows us to examine a relationship in its many stages. However, it not only covers romantic relationships, but also interactions that any person can relate to – a teenager’s relationship with her ageing parents, a divorcee with their ex, a blindly-fanatical rebel's relationship with authority. This fantastic show is a must see for anyone who has ever considered being in love.

The play centers on the romantic lives of Henry (Robin Morton) and Annie (Jenny Scudamore) and their search for the ‘real’ kind of love, whatever that means. They must overcome many obstacles including marriages, flings, and political prisoners, and they must muddle through them like ordinary human beings.

I must specifically commend Jenny Scudamore for her superb performance. From scene to scene, or even within a scene, she effortlessly moved among a wide array of emotions: lust, remorsefulness, jealousy, love. You could tell why Harry loved her. Her opposite, Robin Morton, brought out the boyish and youthful nature of Henry and his romantic notions of love, which served him well for most of the play, but came across false in some of the later, more intense, scenes, although the love that Henry and Annie shared was truly conveyed. The supporting cast were all well chosen and put in commendable performances that made the play more than just a story about love.

The space lent itself well to the scenes put on, as the L-shaped format made it seem as if there are two audiences instead of one, and neither side felt neglected by the actors. It only added to the intimate rendering of the play. The music incorporated into the piece masterfully denoted time passing, starting even with the music that greeted the audience as they entered the house. Deft song choice was used with great effect to explain the feelings of the characters. The set was understated and generally constant, but when the scene required a shift, the incorporation of a white curtain as a backdrop was all it took to take the audience to another place. This simple portrayal could only work because of the careful incorporation of sound and the great performances by the actors.

Overall, the attention to detail in all aspects of the show is what made it truly great. Tom Powell and Jack Gamble brought everything together (with their names listed an impressive number of times on the program) as directors, producers, and designers of the show. It is clear that they put an inordinate amount of work into the production, and while there were some hiccups, as there will be in any live performance, I can only congratulate them for putting together a marvelously entertaining and moving show.

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