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The Real Thing

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,943 Ratings  ·  118 Reviews
Henry may be the wittiest playwright of his generation, but he's hopelessly na ve when it comes to understanding love and infidelity. Writing about betrayal is one thing, living with it is another. After Henry leaves his wife for another woman, he's confronted with being the cuckold himself. Both dazzlingly clever and emotionally naked, Henry's search for the "the real thi ...more
Audio CD, 1 page
Published June 1st 2009 by LA Theatre Works (first published 1982)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nov 25, 2015 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't be fooled by the title; this isn't a play about Coke or Faith No More's best album (you watch; I'll get an argument on that last one) but rather a searching character piece about LOVE.

To be more specific, it explores the nature of love and how it means different things to different people. It includes betrayal, devotion, sex, parental love and that old favourite, unrequited love.

It also includes a brief exploration of highbrow and lowbrow art which, I suspect, is meant to draw a parallel w
Dec 17, 2015 J.M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers & the literati
December of Drama 2015, day seventeen

"If you want a lover,
I'll do anything you ask me to.
And if you want another kind of love,
I'll wear a mask for you.
--I'm Your Man, by Leonard Cohen

There are some who would call this "a fine play," and it is. There are others who will call it "a clever play," and it's that, too. But it's not just fine, nor merely clever. In fact there's a point where anybody watching (or reading) it may ask themselves whether what it's doing is anything more than cleverness.
Rachel C.
Feb 15, 2008 Rachel C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: form-play-script
In a word: spectacular.

Stoppard uses the play-within-a-play structure to mess around with ideas of reality, honesty, fidelity and love. Characters include a playwright (Henry) and two actresses (Charlotte and Annie). Henry is married to first one, then the other: "To marry one actress is unfortunate, to marry two is simply asking for it."

Stoppard puts his gift for verbal gymnastics into Henry's mouth and we watch Henry struggle (eloquently) to articulate how he feels about the women in his life,
Mar 22, 2008 Trevor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this play has one of the best lines about enduring love and enduring through love. Even though the characters and incredibly flawed, I appreciated their vulnerability and desire to stay together despite the fact that their relationship was getting difficult. Stoppard does a great job portraying two characters who don't want to stay together because of a buildup of tension and yet who still feel compelled to remain. It's not a simplistic portrayal either. The two characters are not so dev ...more
Mar 09, 2010 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
Stoppard, Tom. THE REAL THING. (1984). *****. Written with Stoppard’s patented wit, this play focuses on love – at first with comic wit, then with mordant wit. His characters are all actors, theater artists, or writers; the kinds of people who excel at clever and stylish deception. The play is built on layer after layer of appearances that seem to be truth, but turn out to be deception, or, maybe, different forms of truth. In the opening act, we meet Max and Charlotte, a married couple. Max is i ...more
Erisa Isak
Feb 16, 2016 Erisa Isak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

So eh, I decided to give it an extra star . . . for the language in it. I came back to get a quote, and ended up reading the whole play. It's such a pleasure to read!
There's a reason that this play is one of my all-time favorites from Stoppard, and this is it:

Words don’t deserve that kind of malarkey. They’re innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they’re no good any more.... I don’t think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order,
Feb 27, 2014 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Leslie by: Andy
Shelves: plays
Very enjoyable play about love (when is it "the real thing"?). The play centers around Henry (a playwright) and Annie (an actress); as often in Stoppard's plays, certain scenes & phrases repeat throughout the play with small variations. In this play one of the repeating scenes is of a wife returning home after a trip to a husband who thinks he has evidence of her infidelity -- sometimes the husband is mistaken, sometimes the wife has lied but not been unfaithful, sometimes he is correct. I f ...more
Lorma Doone
Oct 21, 2010 Lorma Doone rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: plays
It's hard for me to rate this play. It certainly had something to say, but I'm not sure I liked it. I ABHOR the characters. There is nothing redeemable about them in my opinion, and they spend the play giving you more reasons to dislike them. Towards the end I found myself feel empathetic toward Henry, but that was a brief, fleeting moment. That being said, I also feel that this play is an excellent, spot-on examination of modern relationships. After you read it, you realize what a sad and depre ...more
Jun 01, 2010 Maria-Sophia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
i'm wondering if there are two Tom Stoppards out there or if there was a problem when i uploaded the audio cd's to my ipod. i listened (while running - adding insult to injury!!! nothing worse than working out to something that sucks!)to about twenty minutes of this. what turned me off most were the really silly/crappy grandpa-esque wordplay jokes/humor that the audience seemed to find hysterical. And the little bit in the beginning about "the swiss not going digital" really wasnt that clever or ...more
May 24, 2016 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It’s not too hard a thing, to start reading plays. I’m glad it seems I’m able to start to read on my own a bit.

Stoppard. I hesitate to say I like any given author. It’s the work, you see, that is more interesting. Authors can be fallible. They can create a masterpiece like EoE and then have…the rest. I thin I really want to say that I enjoy Stoppard. R&G? Quite innovative, funny, light and at the same time dark; cynical while optimistic. Arcadia, of course. I gush about it.
So where does the
Rich Law
Jul 14, 2014 Rich Law rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not all that familiar with Stoppard's stuff (I saw and loved Arcadia a few years ago), but I'll certainly be reading more.

The Real Thing is all about love, and it tackles it with an intelligence, wit, and depth that I've rarely come across. The titular "real thing" is hard to pin down; there are a couple of plays within this play and all the characters are professional actors/writers who are constantly mixing their profession with their personal lives by constantly acting. This doesn't make
Feb 03, 2015 A. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review: The Real Thing, Night and Day, Travesties by Tom Stoppard

I recently hear a technically brilliant, world famous organist and composer play one of his more difficult works. As I expected, it was technically brilliant, and arid. It recalled many technically brilliant works for the piano written during, principally, the Romantic period: brilliant, but arid. Spoiler alert: if technical brilliance is your touchstone in valuing music and drama, skip this review.
“Henry : Or perhaps I’d realize
Jan 28, 2015 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I forget how much I like reading plays.

Aside from the super awkward cover, which made me feel like I was reading something trashy, I really, really loved this book (play. screenplay.).

Stoppard is an incredibly gifted playwright. This story is basically a commentary on love and relationships and has so many poignant moments that I had to stop taking note of the quotes that I liked because there were simply too many of them. Each character has a vastly different idea of what love is and
Sep 22, 2015 Indira rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up after reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play also written by Tom Stoppard. That play made me expect a lot from Stoppard. The Real Thing did have some witty wordplay, but I found the plot to be boring. It's about trying to discover what real love is, and how sometimes what seems like love isn't "the real thing." I should have known that I wouldn't enjoy a play all about love. The characters didn't make the play any more enjoyable, either; I really wanted to support ...more
Apr 17, 2012 Jason rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Dull w/some smart meta pretension. I really don’t see how this is the play with the material get 2 lead and one sup Tonys in a year (and 2 lead Tonys for its revival). I barely even remember Charlotte, and I guess it is clever to talk at length about plays in a play – certainly it worked wonders in some of Shakespeare’s. But it was a slog.
I find that reading Stoppard's plays before I see them really helps me understand what's going on. I think this is one of his most accessible plays and absolutely LOVE the little speech he has in there comparing writing to a cricket bat. He's definitely a hero of mine.
Jun 12, 2015 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite good, very clever. Would read again. Did read again, actually, since I had forgotten I already read it before.

Three stars only because I'm comparing this to other Stoppard plays -- R&G are Dead, Arcadia, which blow my mind.

I think one of the things that bugs me is that the play is about finding love, "the real thing," but while we certainly see a lot of things that *aren't* "the real thing," it never makes that final connection. It feels like the final scene(s) are supposed to get us t
Tom Marcinko
Dec 31, 2015 Tom Marcinko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"He loves me, and he wants to punish me with his pain, but I can't come up with the proper guilt. I'm sort of irritated by it. It's so tiring and uninteresting. You never write about that, you lot. Gallons of ink and miles of typewriter ribbon expended on the misery of the unrequited lover; not a word about the utter tedium of the unrequiting."

This mid-career? (1984) play has more emotional depth than Stoppard's early comedies. Infidelity causes real pain in this one. But it's Stoppard, and ther
Apr 09, 2013 Shelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
taking a break between books to re-read this on the first warm day. I saw this produced as a play, with who? Roy Scheider doing a painful British Accent I'm googling around here... It says that Glen Close was in it but I seem to remember Blythe Danner. Jeremy Irons was the memorable one.

Why it became really really important to track down my copy and stop most things to read it right-this-minute: I've been working on a new painting, and the idea is there but the composition is iffy. The painting
David Gallagher
Sep 14, 2010 David Gallagher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: The most cuddly man in the world
I listened to the audiobook of this play, and didn't actually read it. In many ways I prefer audiobooks when it comes to theatrical plays since that way it comes more alive, even if I'm not really prone towards audiobooks.

I loved many things about The Real Thing, it's from those kind of books that seem different every time you read them, especially if many years go by between readings. Because that thing they call life experience makes you view it differently as you gain more of it.

The characte
Autumn Meier
Feb 16, 2016 Autumn Meier rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
"Well, I remember, the first time I succumbed to the sensation that the universe was dispensable minus one lady."

Stoppard's play (a play within a play, really) takes a look at love and infidelity. There were some good lines, but I definitely enjoyed some of his other plays more. The great point of this one, though, is that true love isn't "literary." It can't be expressed by Shakespeare or Stoppard, or me or you; it is forever inexplicable--chaotically, messily, and beautifully.
Sep 03, 2013 H added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: drama
HENRY: I can't help somebody who thinks, or thinks he thinks, that editing a newspaper is censorship, or that throwing bricks is a demonstration hile building tower blocks is social violence, or that unpalatable statement is provocation while disrupting the speaker is the exercise of free speech . . . Words don't deserve that kind of malarkey. THey're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incompre ...more
Jan 24, 2015 Deborah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A creative look at the evolution of love in a couples' relationship.

I love you so use me. Be indulgent, negligent, preoccupied, premenstrual... your credit is infinite. I'm yours, I'm committed.

It's no trick loving somebody at their best. Love is loving them at their worst. Is that romantic? Well, good. Everything should be romantic. Love, work, music, literature, virginity, loss of virginity...
Eric Norris
Jan 13, 2016 Eric Norris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The idea that "Mirage and reality merge in love" finds its perfect theatrical portrayal here. Plays are performed within plays; lives are re-written as lies; and re-written as difficult and hard to swallow truths about the human heart; all the while love--the most intangible asset of them all--finds itself buried in bowl of vegetable dip--the comical mimetic counterpart of Chekhov's gun. A brilliant play on every level.
Nov 23, 2014 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A nice play. A good story with a good pace. The characters are enjoyable, and interesting. My biggest complaint is that sometimes I feel that Tom Stoppard was trying to hard. Some of the monologues felt like they were trying to hard to impress the reader or the audience, rather than sound like something that a person is actually saying. Not my favorite of Stoppard's work, but still good.
Mar 12, 2012 Joseph rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, plays, recommended
I've known Stoppard through Arcadia and R & G are Dead, so it was very interesting to read a play that was set more in the "real world". I'd love to see it performed, but the reading experience was undeniably pleasurable. The first book in a long time that I "couldn't set down.". To truly approach the play, I think you would need to do a lot of investigation. Like Arcadia, it jumps right into the story, giving a window into talking professionals who take for granted there is an audience list ...more
The play-within-a-play conceit is a little confusing in the first act, but the second act is brilliant. The romantic circumstances flip adroitly. There's an even dozen monologues that give full picture to various romantic realities. Also, Stoppard's famous cricket bat analogy is in this play.
Valeri Drach
Oct 01, 2014 Valeri Drach rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure that I agree with Tom Stoppard's definition of the real thing when it comes to love but this was a great read. I'm looking forward to seeing the play this month. I don't know if Annie is worth Henry's devotion but there's probably eternal truth there.
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Sir Tom Stoppard OM, CBE, FRSL, is a British screenwriter and playwright.

Born Tomáš Straussler.

More about Tom Stoppard...

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“I mean, if Beethoven had been killed in a plane crash at twenty-two, the history of music would have been very different. As would the history of aviation, of course.” 224 likes
“Words... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good any more... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little or make a poem which children will speak for you when you're dead.” 120 likes
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