The Dresser at Duke of York's Theatre

  • Theatre
The Dresser at Duke of York's Theatre


Mon, 21/11/2016 - 13:19


Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott in The Dresser. Photo: Hugh Glendinning
Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott in The Dresser. Photo: Hugh Glendinning
17 November, 2016

RONALD Harwood’s tragi-comedy has been a firm favourite with audiences and critics alike since its first performance 36 years ago.  

Although it has been revived on several occasions and been turned into a successful film and more recently, a TV adaptation, it is such a rich play, it still deserves further viewing. 

A classic of modern drama, although its focus is quite narrow – a theatre company, touring the provinces during the Second World War – its themes of co-dependent relationships and mortality are universal.  

In this fine production, directed by Sean Foley, with an ingenuous and atmospheric revolving set by Michael Taylor, the celebrated roles of Shakespearean actor-manager Sir and his dresser Norman are taken by two of our most exciting actors. 

Ken Stott is a magnificent Sir, at breaking point but driven by an egocentric need to be recognised and remembered. Stott manages to convey both the monstrosity of his character and his fragility.   

Shearsmith is the perfect foil. Desperate for his boss to go on stage, despite strong evidence he is incapable, Norman is a grey, fawning character simmering with hidden resentments and propping himself up with alcohol.

Harwood’s writing is finely tuned and insightful about the human condition, so that this toxic interdependent relationship has universal resonance. 

The Dresser has elements of farce, particularly in a scene where Sir is reluctant to go on stage and other actors have to cover for him in a shambolic way.  However, it is also a very dark and tragic play and the ending is devastating.

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