REVIEW: The Dresser at Chichester Festival Theatre

Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott in The Dresser. Photo by Hugo Glendinning
Reece Shearsmith and Ken Stott in The Dresser. Photo by Hugo Glendinning

Anyone who knows anything about the theatre, especially third rate touring productions, will understand that there is always more drama off stage than there is on.

Ronald Harwood’s seminal play exposes life behind the scenes with brutal honesty and extraordinary pathos and good humour.

We see a Shakespearean company at its most hammingly awful through the eyes of the star’s dresser, Norman.

It is Norman (Reece Shearsmith), the most lowly of the company, who keeps the show on the road.

While ‘Sir’ (Ken Stott), the glittering star who moves from Lear to King Richard between performances, dazzles and bewilders all in the same moment.

Love, lust and disappointed. It is all here, resplendent in its pain and its pleasure.

Like the performances it seeks to parody, The Dresser doesn’t quite know when to end - it hangs on for a scene or two too long.

But this production is magnificent and the audience knows that in Stott and Shearsmith they have shared in performances of 24 carat quality.

There is nothing provincial here. This is West End class.