Brighton Magazine

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Selected Brighton Magazine Article

Monday 16 October 2017

Q&A: Laurence Fox Speaks Ahead Of Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing Coming To Theatre Royal Brighton

As a member of one of the UK's leading acting dynasties, Laurence Fox is best known for playing DS James Hathaway in Lewis

Other television credits include A Room With A View and Wired. His film credits include Gosford Park and Becoming Jane and recent stage roles include Our Boys and Strangers on a Train.

Now he set to make an appearance at Theatre Royal Brighton in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing.

Combining the intellectual and dazzling wordplay of Stoppard at his most witty with some of his most tender and touching writing, this clever, poignant and entertaining examination of infidelity is a modern classic.

Henry is the smartest and sharpest playwright of his generation. His wife, Charlotte, an actress, has been appearing in a play by Henry about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. 

When Henry's affair with Annie threatens to destroy his own marriage, he realises life has started imitating art. But are they really in love? Is it the real thing?

The Brighton Magazine (TBM): What are you most relishing about playing Henry in The Real Thing?

Laurence Fox (LF): 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.

TBM: For people who aren't familiar with the play how would you describe him?

LF: 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?

TBM: Do you have anything in common with Henry and what are the big differences?

LF: The things we have in common are that I am the same height, look similar and sound the same. The big differences? That would be telling! But 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.

TBM: The play premiered in 1982. Why do you think it has endured?

LF: Because it was written by Tom Stoppard, our finest living dramatist. Some of it is just sublime, like all of his plays. He's sort of operating at a totally, massively heightened intellectual level and the language is utterly satisfying – it's silky and expressive. 

TBM: Are there themes in The Real Thing that you feel will resonate with contemporary audiences?

LF: Well, it's about love, fear, hope, loss and laughter. Those are themes that at least I hope will resonate.

TBM: Why do you think Tom Stoppard is so revered as a playwright?

LF: 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 Stoppard 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.

TBM: Is this the first time you've starred in one of Stoppard's plays? What particular challenges does his work present to you as an actor?

LF: Yes, it's my first time doing a Stoppard play. It's a complete technical and emotional challenge. 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.

TBM: How is it working with director Stephen Unwin?

LF: Stephen is fantastic! He is precise, tenacious, incredibly supportive, loving, profoundly talented and he really hears Stoppard's voice.

TBM: What do you most enjoy about taking a show on tour?

LF: England isn't just London, the United Kingdom 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.

TBM: Do you have any pre- or post-show rituals?

LF: Pre-show it's a little bit of meditation, a desperate sob and a prayer to The Almighty. Post- show it's anything fizzy!

TBM: What's the one thing you couldn't be without when you're touring with a show?

LF: My wallet and a picture of my lovely boys.

TBM: You've worked extensively across stage, TV and film. What have been your personal career highlights?

LF: 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 doing it. 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.

TBM: What do you especially enjoy about stage work?

LF: I enjoy the challenge and community of theatre. When you leave a play, you leave as a better actor.

Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing at Theatre Royal Brighton from Monday 30th October to Saturday 4th November 2017 as part of a limited UK Tour. CLICK HERE for more info.

by: Mike Cobley


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