RESPECTED actor Laurence Fox stars in Tom Stoppard’s Tony award-winning play, based around a playwright whose marriage – and world – begins to fall apart when the events of his latest script start to reflect reality. Fox discusses his role ahead of a Brighton run.

What are you most relishing about playing Henry in The Real Thing?

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.

For people who aren’t familiar with the play how would you describe him?

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?

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

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.

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

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

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

Stoppard is very much like Shakespeare in a lot of ways. The tone 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 pretty terrible if you get it wrong.

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?

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.

Do you have any pre or post-show rituals?

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

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

My wallet and a picture of my lovely boys.

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

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. I also enjoyed working with Jonathan Lynn [writer and director of The Patriotic Traitor at the Park Theatre]. As for where this job ranks, I’ll let you know when it’s over.

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