John Howard and Tom Stoppard have something quite wonderful and rare in common: they are both members of the Order of Merit.
This super elite Order has no more than 24 members at any time; life membership is the sole gift of the Sovereign. The Queen made Sir Tom a member in 2000, John Howard in 2012.
Now part of Tom Stoppard’s brilliant output is returning to the Opera House. His play, The Real Thing is to be revived by Sydney Theatre Company ( 9 Sep-26 Oct). The Real Thing is Stoppard at his fascinating, elusive best.
The first scene is from a play-within-a-play, so that from the beginning the audience is unsure when they are watching ‘the real thing’; it is a contest between reality and appearance.
At the outset, Henry, a playwright, is married to Charlotte, an actress, but Henry is having an affair with Annie, also an actress, who is married to Max, an actor in Henry’s new play House of Cards.
That’s just the start but this is no brittle comedy but a moving exploration of love.
Tom Stoppard (like JWH) is also a cricket tragic and he gives his character, playwright Henry, a wonderful speech in which he likens the power of a writer’s words to convey ideas to that of a cricket bat propelling a ball.
The Real Thing premiered in 1982; Sydney Theatre Company did it in 1985, directed by Richard Wherrett with Jacki Weaver and John Bell.
Simon Phillips is directing this welcome revival.