Immerse yourself in the world of The Real Thing with our recommended listening, reading and tasting lists!
The Crystals, “Da Doo Ron Ron”
HENRY: It’s not supposed to be eight records you love and adore.
CHARLOTTE: Yes, it is.
HENRY: It is not. It’s supposed to be eight records you associate with turning-points in your life.
CHARLOTTE: Well, I’m a turning-point in your life, and when you took me to Zermatt your favourite record was the Ronettes doing ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’.
HENRY: The Crystals. (scornfully) The Ronettes.
Émile Waldteufel, “The Skater’s Waltz”
HENRY: Look, ages ago, Debbie put on one of those classical but not too classical records -- she must have been about ten or eleven, it was before she dyed her hair -- and I said to you, ‘That’s that bloody tune they were driving me mad with when I was trying to write “Jean-Paul is up the Wall” in that hotel in Deauville all those years ago.’ Or Zermatt.
Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, “Um-Um-Um-Um-Um-Um”
Neil Sedaka, “Oh, Carol”
CHARLOTTE: He likes pop music. The problem is he’s a snob without being an inverted snob. He’s ashamed of liking pop music.
HENRY: This is true. The trouble is I don’t like the pop music which it’s all right to like. You can have a bit of Pink Floyd shoved in between your symphonies and your Dame Janet Baker -- that shows a refreshing breadth of taste or at least a refreshing candour -- but I like Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders doing ‘Um Um Um Um Um Um.’
MAX: Doing what?
HENRY: That’s the title. (He demonstrates it.)‘Um-Um-Um-Um-Um-Um.’ I like Neil Sedaka. Do you remember ‘Oh, Carol’?
MAX: For God’s sake.
The Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’”
HENRY: I was taken once to hear a woman at Covent Garden in a sort of foreign musical with no dancing which people were donating kidneys to get tickets for. The idea was that I would be cured of my strange disability, which took the form of believing that the Righteous Brothers’ recording of ‘You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’’ on the London label was possibly the most haunting, the most deeply moving noise ever produced by the human spirit, and this female vocalist person was going to set me right.
MAX: No good?
HENRY: Not even close.
Bach, “Air on a G String”
Procul Harum, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”
ANNIE: It’s Bach.
HENRY: The cheeky beggar.
HENRY: He’s stolen it.
HENRY: Note for note. Practically a straight lift from Procul Harum. And he can’t even get it right. Hang on. I’ll play you the original.
4 ounces low-fat cream cheese (softened)
3/4 cup crushed pineapple(well-drained)
1 6-ounce can cooked crabmeat (drained and flaked)
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced celery
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
2 teaspoons minced French tarragon
Salt and pepper (to taste)
In a medium serving bowl, mix together cream cheese and pineapple until thoroughly blended. Add crabmeat, mushrooms, celery, chives, and tarragon and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Education Dramaturg Ted Sod interviews The Real Thing playwright Tom Stoppard about his work.
Tom Stoppard Photograph by Jake Chessum
Ted Sod: Who makes a good director for your plays? Tom Stoppard: That’s a really dangerous question. I don’t know if it’s a simple answer. Somebody who likes to do my plays is a good director for them.
TS: What traits do the actors need to be in your plays? Tom Stoppard: I once did a Q&A at the conservatory school at ACT and one of the student actors asked me exactly this question, “What do I look for in an actor?” I didn’t mean to get a laugh or anything, but I said, “Clarity of utterance is what I mostly look for.” It’s just the simple truth. I’m willing to buy two or three different kinds of performances, interpretations. I don’t panic if somebody interprets a character very differently from the way I thought I was writing the character, but getting to the end of the sentence, not leaving out syllables, just clarity of utterance. Unless the audience hears what the actor has said, there is just no point in my writing it or the actor learning it. So to me it’s kind of boringly important. I could go on about that for decades. Every sentence is simply communicating something intelligible. You figure out what that is and you need every syllable to communicate that, so that’s what you do. I mean difference of opinion has much more to do with technicalities like where does the stress fall, and which is the word you land on. That tells the audience what to get out of a particular run of words.
TS: The Real Thing is often said to be your “most personal, popular, and most accessible play.” Do you agree with that assessment? Tom Stoppard: Seems fair enough to me.
TS: I was reading an article about the actor Toby Stephens, who was starring in a revival of The Real Thing as Henry, and he was saying that the play was all about you… Tom Stoppard: Really? I don’t read very much of that.
TS: You were quoted in it too, and you said, “You know what? I wrote this very much before anything happened in my personal life.” Do you remember that? Tom Stoppard: I do remember that, yes.
TS: So when people appraise it as a personal play, would you say Henry came to you independent of yourself? Tom Stoppard: No, it’s actually very personal in the sense that he keeps saying things that I would say or think: his taste in music, his feelings about writing. Of course that’s very close to me, yes.
TS: Henry is a playwright. How difficult is it to write about artists? Does it make it easier when you are writing about somebody who is an artist? Tom Stoppard: It’s not a question I ask myself. I don’t know whether it does or not. I mean, you’re writing a story, it’s got this character: this one happens to be a writer, this one happens to be a painter, this one happens to be a Latin scholar. I have a feeling that everything is coming backwards at me at the moment. It’s just not one of the problems you have to solve. It’s really hard to talk about writing and I’m usually conscious if I’m misleading people or misleading the questioner, because the problem with writing is the next line. On one scale your problem is what the next line is, and on another scale your problem has to do with the structure of maybe an hour of stage time or maybe two hours of stage time. The whole thing about writing a play is that it’s all about controlling the flow of information traveling from the stage to the audience. It’s a stream of information, but you’ve got your hand on the tap and you control in which order the audience receives it and with what emphasis, and how you hold it all together. This is the subconscious act. There’s no book that tells you how to manipulate information from the stage to the audience, but that’s what you’re doing. If you tell the audience too much about something then you’ve lost them because they are overloaded with it. If you tell them too little, you’ve lost them because they’ve lost their way. They don’t know what you mean. It’s constantly this thing of making the audience feel that they’re abreast of the situation and they’re not floundering in the wake of it, and they are not miles ahead of you either. So although it’s a subconscious operation, I think that’s what a writer is doing. I think that’s half of what he’s doing. I like humor and comedy on all levels and part of the drive is that you’re sensitive to the possibility of a good joke, so you head that way for a moment.
TS: Will you be rewriting any of The Real Thing? I believe it was revised in 1999, so I am curious if you’ll be making any revisions in 2014. Tom Stoppard: I’m not like some other writers; I have no actual urgent need or desire to add to what’s written. You write it, if you’re lucky it’s performed, and that’s the end of the whole thing. When it’s time to write the new play, I’m constantly trying to remember how I wrote the last one, thinking that must help. If only I knew how I got into that one, maybe I could get into this one. But I have no memory of getting into it. So, I just feel very lucky that I’ve grown up and lived in a period where people still like to go to the theatre and therefore there are theatres looking for plays. And that’s stranger than you might think. There are many small theatre companies in England. They don’t exist to do Ibsen and Shakespeare, I mean obviously they do that as well, but what they love is two things: One is to rediscover a forgotten play by a distinguished, celebrated writer, which happens in the case of very early Noel Coward or Rattigan for example. But mostly, they want new work to put on. I find that quite interesting and surprising, that that’s what they mostly want. And also I find it quite interesting and surprising that there seems to be an endless supply of people trying to provide it. Writers who in this day and age consider it valuable to have a play performed for an audience of one hundred people. That is the objective. I find that really moving because that’s how I felt when I was twenty.
Previews begin October 2 at the American Airlines Theatre. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.