In the midst of the Second World War, ageing actor-manager ‘Sir’ (Glover) is struggling to keep a grip on his sanity and complete his 227th performance of King Lear. Despite all the able-bodied actors being in uniform and bombs destroying theatres across Britain, the show must go on. Ensuring that it does is Norman (Lyndhurst), Sir’s devoted dresser, who for 16 years has been there to fix his wig, massage his ego, remind him of his opening lines and provide the sound effects in the storm scene.
Written in 1980, The Dresser was inspired by Harwood’s own early experiences as a dresser to Donald Wolfit. The stage play was famously made into a 1983 film starring Albert Finney as Sir and Tom Courtenay as Norman. Harwood’s other credits include, on screen, Oscar winner The Pianist, and on stage, Taking Sides, Quartet, Mahler's Conversion and, last year’s West End adaptation of Francis Veber's See You Next Tuesday.
Lyndhurst is best known for his many TV comedies such as Butterflies, The Two of Us, The Piglet Files and Goodnight Sweetheart in addition to Only Fools and Horses, which was recently voted as the most popular sitcom of all time. His previous West End credits include The Foreigner and Straight and Narrow.
Amongst Glover's many recent stage credits are King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe; Phedre, Britannicus, Waiting for Godot, An Inspector Calls, and Macbeth (with Sean Bean) in the West End; Coriolanus and Henry VI Parts I, II and III, for the RSC; and, last year, a major tour of Harwood’s Taking Sides.
The new production opened at Norwich’s Theatre Royal on 2 November 2004 before continuing on tour, until 4 December, to Brighton, Guildford, Bath and Richmond (See News, 2 Sep 2004). Coincidentally, in the West End, The Dresser takes the place of another Peter Hall production. The director’s revival of Whose Life Is It Anyway?, starring Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall, was originally due to open at the Duke of York’s. In September (See News, 27 Sep 2004), it announced a venue change to the West End’s Comedy Theatre, where it will open on 25 January 2005 (previews from 7 January), just one month before The Dresser transfer.
Currently at the Duke of York’s is another wartime drama, RC Sheriff's First World War classic Journey's End, set in the trenches of France. First opened at the West End’s Comedy Theatre on 21 January 2004 (previews from 15 January), the 75th anniversary revival, directed by David Grindley, transferred to the Playhouse and then on to the Duke of York’s, where it has announced a final five-week extension (See News, 29 Dec 2004). It will now finish on 19 February 2005.
- by Terri Paddock