A famously witty and intelligent dissection of love, betrayal and language, The Real Thing at Malvern Theatres was a slick production that left the audience enthused.

Henry, brilliantly portrayed by Neil Pearson, is a playwright who is experiencing emotional turmoil in his life. The play's backdrop is the affair between Henry and Annie, played with brio by Geraldine Alexander.

The Real Thing is given an edge by the fact that author Tom Stoppard's own love life was turbulent at the time of writing, although he has denied it is autobiographical.

More than a play about love, it is a play about words and their distortion and duplicity. Henry uses words as precision tools at times to deliver withering putdowns and at others to avoid having to face up to reality. As befits a Stoppard play, it is wickedly funny in parts. Pearson attacks his lines with gusto and there is a strong dramatic moment when he compares the writing of a play with a cricket bat.

The production also cleverly emphasises the musical aspects of the play and features both 1960s pop music such as Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale and classical music.

It continues until tomorrow (Saturday).

Richard Milne