The Dresser, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH If you have tears to shed, well wait at least until you have stopped laughing. Every inch a The Sewell Barn Company maintains a remarkable standard, but this is one of its very finest achievements in recent seasons, says our reviewer.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

If you have tears to shed, well wait at least until you have stopped laughing. Every inch a would-be knight of the provincial theatre in the evening of his career, Sir, played with uncanny accuracy by Dave Dixon, is impossible, but plausible, too large for life, yet a child in his dependency. He grows into his make-up and dies for applause.

He is partnered by his dresser (Bob Young), in a role that plots an odd relationship backstage, in a world of reality that fights to claim our attention amid so much invention.

Directed by Clare Howard, in a setting that shows us both a dressing room and the wings, Ronald Harwood's play offers a rich mixture of in-jokes and real emotions, of high spirits and deep self-doubt.

In this world the boundaries between reality and illusion are ill-defined, and the imagination is wrong in thinking it can reign supreme. The secondary roles are interpreted with skill and commitment, especially by Elva Pryal as the long-suffering Madge and June Gentle as a wife whose fuse has become shorter.

The Sewell Barn Company maintains a remarkable standard, but this is one of its very finest achievements in recent seasons.

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