Taking place in London in the 1980s, The Real Thing focuses on the passionate but never fully satisfying love between Henry (a playwright) and Annie (an actress). When they start an affair Henry is already married to Charlotte and Annie is married to Max. Soon they both divorce their partners and marry each other. Unfortunately, this new relationship still does not ultimately fulfill their needs.
Meanwhile, Annie is devoted to freeing Brodie, a Scottish soldier imprisoned for burning a memorial wreath during a protest. She is the reason he committed the crime in the first place, and subsequently feels responsible for his imprisonment. She encourages Brodie to write an autobiographical play in the hopes that it will cause his story to become a political movement, and recruits a reluctant Henry to help ghostwrite.
And through it all, Henry tries to handle the growing cynicism of his teenage daughter, Debbie. He also attempts to understand the reasons that his first marriage fell apart in an effort to save his second. The Real Thing explores the themes of marriage, infidelity, and honesty with a fresh and quick-witted comedic style. The play examines both the pain and passion that love can bring into peoples' lives.