Ronald Harwood’s classic play The Dresser, originally seen as a film and recently remade with Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins, is currently touring the country prior to a West End run. I went to see it in Richmond.
The play is set during the run up to, during, and immediately following an evening at a provincial theatre where “Sir”, a once-great actor, is to play King Lear. His long-suffering dresser, Norman, is trying his best to help him get ready, bearing the brunt of his temper, while “Sir’s” wife and fellow cast members cause problems of their own.
My biggest problem with the play was that it was just too long. The repeated interactions between “Sir” and his various colleagues got a tad repetitive and I did get a little bored. Thankfully the dressing-room scenes were broken up with some amusing farcical scenes during which the cast tried to get through the performance on stage, and these helped to alleviate the boredom somewhat.
Where this production excelled was in its casting. Ken Stott was superb as the selfish, wayward “Sir”, while Reece Shearsmith was excellent as the long suffering Norman: his angry bitter speech towards the end of the play is incredibly affecting, almost making up for the previous two hours of tedium.
This isn’t a bad play by any means. It’s just long and drawn out. I’m sure some of it could be cut with no real issues. The performances are strong enough to make this a worthwhile watch, if you can handle a bit of boredom.