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,” Park 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.”
Acting and directing since the 1970s, Park 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 Park, 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.”
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.
RT1: Henry (Peter Clark) starts to fall for Annie (Bethwyn Legg) in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing. Picture: Arnold Wong
RT2: 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
RT3: Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing features Peter Clark as the playwright Henry with Mel Kay as his daughter Debbie. Picture: Arnold Wong
RT4: Family woes in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing as daughter Debbie (Mel Kay, left) confront her parents Charlotte (Maree Grayden) and father Henry (Peter Clark). Picture: Arnold Wong
Graduate Dramatic Society
The Graduate Dramatic Society (GRADS) originated in 1953 at the University of Western Australia. The Sunken Garden at UWA, a theatre created from a sandpit, was in 1948 the venue for a season of Oedipus Rex which earned the plaudits of Laurence Olivier and Vivienne Leigh, among others. The subsequent blossoming of dramatic activity suggested to some of the undergraduates they should continue after they graduated. For the next 20 years, the Graduate Dramatic Society was a leading source of good theatre in Western Australia.
Combined productions with the University Dramatic Society were early features of the Festival of Perth. In 1964, the New Fortune Theatre came into use. This unique venue is the only theatre in the southern hemisphere built to the known dimensions of an Elizabethan theatre. The first production was Hamlet, directed by Jeana Bradley and Philip Parsons, and involving GRADS members. Besides the Sunken Garden and the New Fortune Theatre, the society also used the old Dolphin, a weatherboard building. That was demolished after the new Dolphin Theatre came into use in 1976.
Since 1995, annual summer productions of Shakespeare have been a feature of the GRADS calendar and offer excellent opportunities for audiences and actors alike to experience the unique environment of this replica Elizabethan theatre.
P: 0405 006 914