Review: The Dresser at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich

The Dresser, directed by Peter Beck, at the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo: Mark Ivan Benfield.

The Dresser, directed by Peter Beck, at the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo: Mark Ivan Benfield. - Credit: Mark Ivan Benfield

John Hare and Robin Watson give top-notch performances as a barn-storming veteran Shakespearean actor and his dresser who has the tricky job of getting him ready to go on stage for his umpteenth appearance of King Lear in a provincial theatre during an air-raid.

The Dresser, directed by Peter Beck, at the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo: Mark Ivan Benfield.

The Dresser, directed by Peter Beck, at the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo: Mark Ivan Benfield. - Credit: Mark Ivan Benfield

Strikingly contrasted in appearance, physical presence and style of speech, master and servant are shown dependent on one another.

Their relationship is constantly changing and being rebalanced between these vulnerable personalities who are both coming to the end of their frayed tethers.

The dialogue is full of rapid-fire wry humour that is laced with literary allusion and tinged with pathos.

The situation grow more intense when the other members of the company, with Etta Geras at the head as the ageing star's long-suffering wife and Hollie Harrington-Ball as a studious stage manager, make it clear that they too have personalities to assert.

The Dresser, directed by Peter Beck, at the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo: Mark Ivan Benfield.

The Dresser, directed by Peter Beck, at the Maddermarket Theatre. Photo: Mark Ivan Benfield. - Credit: Mark Ivan Benfield

As director and designer, Peter Beck makes good use of an imaginative set. He is particularly successful in creating a sense of privacy in the seedy dressing room where the real action of Ronald Harwood's 1980 drama is played out.

The glimpse behind the scenes during a performance adds to the evening's entertainment. Christopher Smith

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The Dresser runs until Saturday at the Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich. For more information, visit www.maddermarket.co.uk

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