The Dresser at the Duke of York’s Theatre
Outstanding, brilliantly funny and devastatingly tragic. This is the latest of many productions of Sir Ronald Harwood’s wonderful 1980 play The Dresser.
Like everything at the Duke of York’s Theatre these days, this play features an all-star cast of the top British actors in showbiz. Ken Stott takes up the role of Sir while Reece Shearsmith is Norman, his dresser. The supporting cast, including Selina Cadell, Simon Rouse and Harriet Thorpe are equally great.
A withered, sick but stubborn actor, Sir prepares to go on stage as King Lear. He’s egged on and helped by his dresser despite everyone’s concern for Sir’s health. It’s desperately dark and sad, closely tied to the story of King Lear and the Fool.
Ken Stott is powerful and tragic as Sir. Although at times, particularly without his Lear makeup, he doesn’t seem quite old enough to be playing the part.
Reece Shearsmith is utterly spectacular as Norman, doing much of the heavy lifting when it comes to the comedy in the play. But this is as much the downfall of Norman as it is of Sir, and Shearsmith demonstrates tremendous emotional range throughout, proving that he deserves his place alongside Ken Stott and among the best British actors out there.
Stott, Shearsmith and the other actors much to the writing. Harwood’s dialogue never misses a beat and the narrative as a whole is perfect.
There’s nearly nothing wrong with The Dresser. To be very pernickity, occasionally it feels like an actor is going for the laugh by putting an unnatural emphasis on something because it’s a punchline or repeating a piece of body language because it didn’t get the laugh the first time. It doesn’t quite seem to fit in with the drama and realness on stage.
The Dresser is one of the most tragic plays in London but at the same time, manages to be one of the funniest. There’s incredible depth to the characters and meaning in everything. But it’s not just a clever piece. It’s incredibly entertaining and it’s hard to think that there could be anyone who wouldn’t enjoy it tremendously.
The Dresser is on at Duke of York’s Theatre from 12h October 2016 until 4th January 2017. Book your ticket here.