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Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at Stirling Theatre

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Infidelity, lies and suspicion: come and see The Real Thing
Tom Stoppard The Real Thing Stirling Theatre GRADS Graduate Dramatic Society play performing arts infidelity lies suspicion Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Peter Clark plays the troubled playwright Henry in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. Picture: Guido Nigro

What happens when a playwright and actors dodge intricately between make-believe and reality? The answer lies in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, presented by the Graduate Dramatic Society at Stirling Theatre.

Directed by Barry Park, it follows playwright Henry and his marriage to two actresses he is married to Charlotte, playing the lead in his latest play, but he soon falls for Annie and leaves his first wife. The play explores whether this love is "the real thing", along with the infidelity, lies and suspicion that take hold.

"I think Stoppard is a brilliant playwright," Barry said. "I've wanted to direct one of his plays for ages, ever since I first saw a wonderful production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. I saw The Real Inspector Hound, Arcadia and Shakespeare in Love, then read all his plays and his biography.

"When I read The Real Thing, I immediately knew it was a play I would love to direct. If you love theatre, you have to love this play because it's brilliantly written and constructed. Not only is it one of the great plays ever written about love but it's also one of the greatest ever written about writing, creativity, playmaking and performing plays.

"The Real Thing is full of layers and links and cleverly interwoven themes and ideas. Scenes replay themselves in subtly different ways and dialogue is repeated by different characters in different situations. It's so witty, intelligent, skillful and taut and deeply emotional at times, too."

Tom Stoppard The Real Thing Stirling Theatre GRADS Graduate Dramatic Society play performing arts infidelity lies suspicion Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Henry (Peter Clark) starts to fall for Annie (Bethwyn Legg) in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. Picture: Arnold Wong

Acting and directing since the 1970s, Barry has directed numerous plays including Death of a Salesman, Blythe Spirit, Lord of the Flies, The Life and Death of Almost Everybody, On Monday Next, The Golden Masque of Agamemnon, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and Agnes of God, among many others.

Several have been nominated for awards, including Death of a Salesman, which scored seven nominations in the National Theatre Festival in Zimbabwe. Closer to home, he picked up gongs for best director and best play at WA's annual Finley Awards for his production of M. Butterfly. As an actor, Park has performed in a plethora of in plays, musicals, pantomimes, minstrel shows, films, radio plays and television in Harare, Cape Town, Edinburgh, London and Perth.

The Real Thing has been months in the planning for Barry, who said having a good understanding of the play was absolutely essential, given its complicated nature.

"It's challenging for the actors, who have to play roles within roles, and it's certainly going to challenge the audience," he said. "At times we see actors who are rehearsing plays they are about to perform.

"At other times, the plays-within-the-play seem so real that it's difficult for the audience to know if they're watching a play or the real thing. But that's the delight of this show it's Stoppard playing with the audience in his typically delightful post-modern way."

Tom Stoppard The Real Thing Stirling Theatre GRADS Graduate Dramatic Society play performing arts infidelity lies suspicion Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Maree Grayden and Peter Clark play husband and wife Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, a story of infidelity, lies and suspicion. Picture: Arnold Wong

Maree Grayden plays Charlotte, Henry's first wife. "She was probably once his muse but is now his sparring partner in a familiarity-breeds-contempt sense," she said. "Charlotte enjoys the banter with Henry and is still able to enjoy his companionship and intellect, even when their marriage ends.

"Given Charlotte's strong, opinionated nature, it was probably this strength of character and her sharp wit that Henry probably found initially attractive but it may also play a part in the destruction of their relationship. She is seemingly quite high maintenance as a partner and doesn't mind telling Henry about his frailties and flaws."

The main challenge for Maree is to play Charlotte as a strong personality without portraying her as too harsh.

"She still needs to be a likeable character and needs to show her enjoyment when she is involved in conversations and situations with Henry," she said. "Thanks to Stoppard, Charlotte is a lot of fun she has some wonderful comebacks and very clever observations of the real world."

The Real Thing plays at 7.30pm June 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, July 2, 3 and 4 with 2pm matinees June 21 and 28. Tickets are $22, $20 concession book at www.grads.org.au.

Stirling Theatre is at 25 Morris Place, Innaloo.

Tom Stoppard The Real Thing Stirling Theatre GRADS Graduate Dramatic Society play performing arts infidelity lies suspicion Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Mel Kay, right, as Debbie in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing with Peter Clark as her father Henry. Picture: Arnold Wong
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Why? It's a fascinating insight into what's real and what isn't, built up through many layers, written by an acclaimed playwright
When: 7.30pm June 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, July 2, 3 & 4; 2pm June 21 & 28
Where: Stirling Theatre, 25 Morris Place, Innaloo
Cost: Tickets are $22, $20 concession
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