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The Fox Factor

Actor Laurence Fox arrives in town to star in Tom Stoppard's 'The Real Thing' at the Rose.

Best known for his television work on the TV drama Lewis, in which he stars (with Kevin Whately in the title role) as DS James Hathaway, actor Laurence Fox is making a departure from his celebrated TV work to tread the boards at the Rose. And as a member of the Fox family – that dynasty of actors – it’s not surprising that Laurence should feel comfortable on stage, given that his father, uncles and several of his siblings and cousins are all successful actors.

His rakish style and charm have led to a legion of fans, but in the last couple of years following the much-publicised split from his wife actress Billie Piper, with whom he has two children, Fox has largely kept out of the limelight. However, the role of Henry in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, sees the actor and musician back on stage doing what he does best.

The Real Thing was first staged in London’s West End in 1982 and subsequently transferred to Broadway where it went on to win multiple awards including the Tony Award for Best Play in 1994 and, 16 years later, the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. It’s a poignant classic that offers an intellectual and entertaining examination of infidelity and sees Henry (played by Fox) as the smartest and sharpest playwright of his generation. His wife, Charlotte, an actress, has been appearing in a play by Henry about a couple whose marriage is on the verge of collapse. Max, her leading man, is also married to an actress, Annie. When Henry’s affair with Annie threatens to destroy his own marriage, he realises life has started imitating art. But are they really in love? Is it the real thing?

Fox, 39, is clearly an admirer of Stoppard: “It’s one of the all-time, brilliant, great modern plays,” he says. “Arguably one of Stoppard’s best. And he’s probably the finest living dramaturg so that’s that! I’ve read his work before, but I’ve never performed it. It’s very challenging, but once you know it, it carries you. The language carries you in the end.”

And what about the character of Henry himself? “I was drawn to this role because of the complexity of this man and his great intelligence, and the journey that he goes through. It’s a monster of a part and a great challenge really.”

Although he’s never been to the Rose, Fox is very familiar with our corner of south west London. “My mum and dad used to live in Wimbledon,” he says. “I got my first pair of Levi 501s in Debenhams in Kingston.” Like many actors who have spent much of their careers working in television, the chance to work on stage with an ensemble of actors is a breath of fresh air and hugely rewarding. So how are rehearsals going? “I love rehearsals. They’re going really well, they’re really enjoyable. It’s a great community that one has in theatre, so I really enjoy it.”

Being part of an ensemble means that the success of the Rose production will not fall only on Fox’s shoulders, and the cast includes pedigree actors such as Adam Jackson- Smith who recently appeared in The Dresser alongside Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith. Leading the team is director Stephen Unwin, who was formerly artistic director at the Rose for five years and whose directing credits include Moon Tiger starring Jane Asher and Present Laughter with Samuel West and Phyllis Logan.

The chance to get that immediate response from an audience is clearly stimulating Fox, who says: “I always find theatre more challenging and interesting in a way because it’s where the actors get to do the acting. There’s lots of editing in television.” But when it comes to appearing again in another series of the highly successful Lewis, he rules nothing in or out.

“I don’t know about recording another series. I mean I don’t have any plans to do it currently, but you never know, if people want to see it one day and someone might like to write a script then maybe I’ll do it.”

As for his Lewis co-star Kevin Whately (whose brother Frank has long been associated with the Rose, and was made the first ever Honorary Fellow of Kingston University in recognition of his lifelong commitment to drama education), Fox is full of praise: “I love him to bits! We have good chemistry on screen and a great relationship in life. He’s a pleasure to know and to work with.”

Fox released his debut album in 2016 called Holding Patterns and he’s keen to release more music in the future: “Once this has finished I will be with my kids and then I will be releasing some more music next year in February.” But for now theatre-goers have a chance to see the talented all-rounder at the top of his game on stage at the Rose.

The Real Thing runs at the Rose Theatre Kingston from 3 to 14 October. For tickets phone 020 8714 0090 or see www.rosetheatrekingston.org

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