Last Updated on October 22, 2021
A tour de force for Clary in a superb role
Ronald Harwood’ 1980 classic play has been taken on by many of Britain’s cream of acting talent, including Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney, Sarah Lancashire and Eileen Atkins. It is special for this production to add to this canon in the settings of real provincial theatres, much like the nameless one featured in the play.
The Dresser is Ronald Harwood, famous for writing the Pianist and other masterpieces, a love letter to a specific period in British Theatre when Actor-Managers dragged companies around provincial theatres to perform Shakespeare and Greek tragedies. Based on his own experience as a dresser for 5 years and his observations of others, he has recreated that little world onstage marvellously.
This production is mostly a two-hander, although admirable performances are put in by the supporting cast. Julian Clary purrs as ‘Sir’s’ dresser Norman, soothing, assuaging, full of anecdote and regularly taking a swig of something suspicious in a hip flask. Julian Clary certainly has a hold of the stage, making it all the more hilarious when his character is unable to do the same himself. Joining him, suitably for the subject matter, is the understudying for Matthew Kelly, Peter Yapp in the role of ‘Sir’, roaring with theatrical despair a la Lear, the part he is attempting to play that evening and equally charismatic and decrepit.
The supporting cast does put in a good performance and gel with the leading two well. ‘Her Ladyship’, Emma Amos, is glamorous, concerned and honest, ‘Madge’, Rebecca Charles, is stern but hides a tenderness within and Irene, Natali Servat, takes on a not very #MeToo friendly part with vigorousness and confidence.
The tone does swing in the way all good British plays do from pettiness and superstition to great despair but along with an audience in a real theatre, something we’re all a little more grateful for now, you can ride it out. Tim Shortall’s set and costume design are Keep calm and carry on chic with muted colours and a few good dresses for the actresses on stage to round it out paired with a soundtrack of wartime classics, it could be a real nostalgia-fest if anyone alive at the time is still alive now. Terry Johnson’s direction is also enjoyable, masterfully using the set to his advantage and getting some fantastic performances out of his cast.The Dresser will be continuing its tour and it out to be very popular, it provides a bittersweet mug of hot cocoa at a time when I think a lot of us could do with exactly that.
The Dresser continues its tour across the UK into the next year, tickets can be booked at theatre’s websites
19 – 23 October 2021
Theatre Royal Plymouth
26 – 30 October 2021
18 – 22 January 2022
Malvern Festival Theatre
25 – 29 January 2022
1 – 5 February 2022
Marlowe Theatre Canterbury
8 – 12 February 2022
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
15 – 19 February 2022
King’s Theatre Edinburgh
Looking for something in central London? We recommend The Shark is Broken, currently showing in London West End and Get Up, Stand Up, the Bob Marley Musical, also showing in the West End. Click through to read our reviews!