Henry (Stephens) is a successful and talented playwright married to Charlotte (Woolgar), an actress playing the lead in his current play about adultery. Her co-star and friend Max (Kay), is married to Annie (Morahan), also an actor. Henry and Annie have fallen in love, but is it any more real than the subjects in Henry’s play? As the story unravels, Henry discovers that love - ‘the real thing’ - can be unpredictable and painful.
The Real Thing was famously revived at the Donmar Warehouse in 1999, in a production that was also directed by David Leveaux and starred Stephen Dillane and Jennifer Ehle as Henry and Annie. The following year, that production transferred first to the West End and then on to Broadway, where it won three Tony Awards, for Best Revival of a Play and Best Actor and Actress for Dillane and Ehle (See News, 5 Jun 2000).
Hattie Morahan’s credits include Time and the Conways, The Family Reunion, Some Trace of Her, The Seagull and The City on stage, and Lark Rise to Candleford, Outnumbered and Sense and Sensibility on screen.
Barnaby Kay was most recently seen on stage in A Streetcar Named Desire with Rachel Weisz at the Donmar, while his TV credits include Wuthering Heights, The Government Inspector, The Fixer, The Passion and Spooks. Fenella Woolgar’s credits include the films Summer Project, Scoop, St Trinian’s, Wah Wah and Vera Drake and the plays Time and the Conways, Motortown and As You Like It.
The new production returns Stoppard’s work to the Old Vic, where his first play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, was a breakthrough hit in 1967. The cast also includes Tom Austen, Louise Calf and Jordan Young. Design is by Lez Brotherston.
In other play casting news, the full company has been announced for Behud (Beyond Belief) (See News, 10 Dec 2009), the play written by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti in response to the furore surrounding her allegedly “anti-Sikh” play Behzti (Dishonour), which sparked off riots when it premiered at Birmingham Rep five years ago (See News, 20 Dec 2004).
The cast comprises: Lucy Briers, Priyanga Burford, Ravin J Ganatra, Shiv Grewal, John Hodgkinson, Chetna Pandya and Avin Shah. A co-production between the Belgrade and Soho Theatres, the world premiere of Behud opens in Coventry at the Belgrade, running from 27 March to 10 April 2010 before transferring to London’s Soho, where it will run from 13 April to 8 May, as the last play helmed by Soho’s outgoing artistic director Lisa Goldman (See News, 27 Nov 2009).
Initially peaceful demonstrations involving an estimated 400 Sikhs turned violent at a Saturday night performance of Behzti in December 2004 at Birmingham Rep. Some 85 police were required to restore order and evacuate more than 800 people from the theatre when protesters stormed the building. When local Sikh leaders failed to provide assurances that there would be no further riots, Birmingham Rep cancelled the play’s run, citing safety concerns.
The incident attracted headlines around the world and prompted an ongoing debate about artistic censorship. Supporters of the play said its cancellation was an affront to freedom of speech, and more than 700 leading arts figures signed a letter in support of Bhatti, who went into hiding after receiving death threats. Subsequent attempts to restage Behzti were called off at Bhatti’s request.
In the highly autobiographical new piece, Behud, a playwright (played by Pandya) attempts to make sense of the past by visiting the darkest corners of her imagination. Set amidst the theatre establishment, politicians and protesters, Behud is billed as a response to the events surrounding Behzti, and the story of an artist struggling to be heard.