THE DRESSER - JULY 2018

A wickedly funny and moving story, The Dresser is set on one fateful night in a small English regional theatre during World War II, where a troupe of actors are staging a production of Shakespeare's King Lear.

 

REVIEW BY KEV CASTLE
 

"The Dresser" by The Festival Players.

Sir Robert Martin Theatre, Loughborough University.

 

Ronald Harwood's story about an aging actor's personal assistant, Norman,who struggles to keep his charge's life together. "Sir" is about to go onstage to perform King Lear but it's obvious that something isn't quite as it should be with Sir.

Harwood was himself a dresser: to actor Donald Wolfit, most famous for his Lear.

It has been a long time since I've seen this play and had forgotten just what an enjoyable watch this play is.

Steve Illidge plays Norman, the dresser. He's like the third party in Sir's relationship with"Her Ladyship". he is bullying, persuasive, supportive, protective, always encouraging but also a tad jealous, and Steve brings out all of these traits in Norman. You also see a touch of bromance, more from Norman's side, in their relationship.

Sir, is played by Nick Grainger and the character is leading tours of tatty productions of Shakespeare to the British provinces during the Second World War and the company he’s got to work with are what he dubs the“cripples, old men and Nancy boys” who are not fighting on the front.

Nick brings out the total dependency that Sir has on his dresser, as well asthe loneliness, sadness and helplessness in the character. You really feel sorry for the crumpled heap of a character Sir has become, especially as you're in on the fact that Sir is not well.

Liz Berrisford plays a wonderfully business like Madge, who's running theshow, who we discover may have had some history with Sir, well it's hinted at!

Playing Her Ladyship is Julie Easter; a completely different character role from the last one I saw Julie in, which shows that character roles are strong in Julie's catalogue.

The three visible Lear tour members we see are Irene, played by Persephone Leafe, Oxenby, played by Chris Marshall and a lovely comic role in Geoffrey Thornton - "The Fool" played by Eddie Orton. There are also two other actors we hear but don't see as Lear players during the Lear production within The Dresser, voiced by Doug Gilbert and Jessica Hannah.

Directed by Rachel Ingham, the pace is gentle, which is one thing that makes this play a joy to watch. While the characters could have been played over the top, this was not the case here, making the characters believable and endearing.

I loved the set which was mainly a 1940's style dressing room, with some lovely props making the era stand out, and the other part was the wings atthe side of the stage. there's plenty to look at on this set without being cluttered.

A thoroughly enjoyable play, which to say was written as a 
tragi-comedy, has just the right balance of both.

"The Dresser" is at the Sir Robert Martin Theatre at Loughborough University until Saturday 7 July 2018.

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