The Dresser review: Dry humour cuts through the sadness of a decaying actor
- Credit: Alastair Muir
The Dresser, by Oscar-winner Ronald Harwood, has arrived in Norwich and delivers an emotional tale masked with dry humour.
Inspired by Harwood's own memories of working as a dresser for Donald Wolfit, the show follows Norman, a devoted dresser for an actor referred to as Sir.
For 16 years Norman has been at Sir's side to fix his wig and massage his ego.
But Sir is starting to act strangely and Norman is having to remind him of his lines.
The dresser is sad tale about a stubborn and decaying actor, bolstered by the sharp comedy of his dresser, which takes place during a performance of King Lear.
Sir is played with immense skill by Olivier-winner Matthew Kelly who switches effortlessly between pretentious actor and a frail old man.
He is demanding and at the top of his game one moment and terrified and piteous the next.
- 1 Work started on four new homes without permission
- 2 Woman has heart attack and dies in ambulance waiting for a hospital bed
- 3 Murder investigation launched after body of man found in Norwich flat
- 4 Flight bound for Norwich turns back to Aberdeen
- 5 Jets heard roaring over Norwich for training exercise
- 6 Christmas craft, food and gift fair returning to Norfolk estate
- 7 Holt Hall for sale after years of uncertainty
- 8 Man who died after a medical episode in Hopton identified
- 9 Banham Zoo welcomes birth of two tiger cubs
- 10 Who can get a Covid booster jab and how can I book one?
Julian Clary plays dresser Norman, who is fiercely loyal and quick of wit.
Not surprisingly Clary's performance draws the most laughs from the audience with his sassy one-liners.
But his character is just as double-edged as the actor he is devoted to with a cruel streak fuelled by jealousy hiding behind snide remarks.
Sir's wife, referred to Her Ladyship, seems nothing but a trophy wife and mediocre actress when she first appears but commands her own respect as the show continues.
Portrayed by Emma Amos, she is the first to put Sir in his place when his ego takes over.
Written in 1980 and set in 1942, the play is surprisingly relevant to the present, with scenes that bring to mind the #MeToo movement and the mistreatment of young women in the acting profession.
The War provides a disheartening backdrop for theatre, and with actors fighting on the front, Sir's company are left with a small cast.
The worrying state of the profession portrayed hit close to home after a difficult year and a half for theatre.
The play is filled with moments that will make you chuckle and roll your eyes, but leaves you reflecting on how illness can take away someone's identity.