"Highs and lows of theatre"
by Graham Trelfer for remotegoat on 31/10/08

The Dresser is a delightful play set behind the scenes of English theatre in 1942 as air raids take place over head. Norman is the highly dedicated dresser to an acting companies lead actor. When the actor known has Sir has a breakdown Norman is determined that the show must go on and no matter how he feels the actor must face his audience in a production of Shakespeare's greatest tragedy 'King Lear'.

This was a highly entertaining play and you don't have to be a lovey to enjoy the backstage shenanigans that go on in the theatre. This is a character piece between the humble servant and the tired actor. Norman is brilliantly played by Stephen Gray who carries off the role as slightly camp and comical dresser, as evidenced by the title this is his play, but it is Sir (played by Ian Recordon) who carries of the most emotional journey. His gradual transformation from tired depressed actor to the noble Kin g Lear is fascinating watch as it takes place before our eyes.
By the time the transformation is complete it is hard to remember what the actor even looked like.
Director Pat Grosse does great job the staging is really nice, although most of the play is set in a small dressing room (beautifully realised by Jo Staples), when King Lear begins there is great use of both space and lighting.

The choice of King Lear as the play that is to be performed is interesting for its parallels to the play itself. If Sir is to seen as King Lear, an actor like the king past his prime, Norman would be the Fool, the man who sticks by his leader when everyone else deserts him. Her Ladyship, Madge and Irene would be the daughters, two happy to tell him what he wants to hear and a third telling him the harsh truth. While knowing

King Lear is not essential to the viewing of the play, it does an extra dynamic into why Ronald Harwood chose it.
Overal an enjoyable play, very funny and touching.

Very much recommended.

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