Infidelity is as much of a hot-button topic today as it was in the 1980s when Tom Stoppard penned The Real Thing. Is cheating a temporary distraction? Real love barely-disguised lust? And can a dysfunctional, albeit passionate and loving, relationship horned in by adultery and deceit still, in fact, be the ‘real thing’?

In Stoppard’s twisty turvy masterpiece, Henry is a sharp but arrogant and emotionally detached playwright – a foible often mistaken as selfishness and indifference by the women in his life – navigating the consequences of adultery at home and in his work.

He is in the throes of a passionate affair with Annie, an actress married to Max, the leading man in his current play – a vivisection of infidelity – in which Max stars opposite Henry’s wife Charlotte.

From the get-go life threatens to imitate art. Eventually, Annie and Henry drop the act and marry but the initially lovey-dovey pair return to their old tricks. As The Real Thing unfolds, their relationship teeters between truth and lies, integrity and pretence, authenticity and artifice. When his second wife betrays him, a usually supremely self-possessed Henry cracks. Distraught and rudderless, he is left grappling with the unexpected intensity of his emotion.

Laurence Fox delivers a deeply affecting performance as Henry, especially as his untouchable facade splinters to reveal a fragile man hopelessly in love. He gloriously conveys Henry’s turmoil as a playwright (do we glean Stoppard’s own dilemma here?) struggling to write convincingly about such an intangible subject as love.

The chemistry between Fox and Flora Spencer-Longhurst is magnetic and utterly believable. While Spencer-Longhurst imbues single-minded Annie with poiseand quiet determination.

Subtle, carefully crafted and truly moving, The Real Thing delights in blurring the lines and wrong-footing the audience. A pleasure!

The Real Things runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until September 30.