by Ronald Harwood

A scene from The Dresser

Photo: Blissfulbanana

Tue 14 - Sat 18 May 2019 at 7.30pm
The Playhouse Theatre, Clare Street, Northampton NN1 3JA


Norman Stewart Magrath
Sir Adrian Wyman
Her Ladyship Di Wyman
Madge Maggie Holland
Geoffrey Owen Warr
Irene Ella Broughton
Oxenby Mark Mortimer
Voices in King Lear Louis Chawner, Kevin Pinks, Kevin Evans

Director & Stage Manager Clare Brittain
Sound & Lighting
Phillip Welsh
Continuity Ingrid Heymann
hair & Makeup Design
Rachael Pickering
Poster Design Megan Lewis
Rehearsal Photography
Becki Cockcroft
Programme Design Tamsyn Payne
Box Office & Front of House Masque Theatre members


'A romantic picture of actors as air raids sound and bombs drop'

Reviewed by Ian Bradley
Pictures by Blissfulbanana

The Dresser follows one traumatic day of a Shakespearean company as they try to do their bit to 'stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood', presenting plays across war-torn Britain in 1942.

It's a great play about the theatre written by Ronald Harwood in 1980. If the play had a motto it would be 'the show must go on'.

It's a comedy that paints a romantic picture of actors as air raid sirens sound and bombs drop down.

Clare Brittain directed a superb adaptation of the play with a talented cast playing all the roles.

The stage was simply set, which helped capture the atmosphere of England at war.

The entire cast were very convincing and there were no weak links. Special mention must go to the performances of Stewart Magrath, Adrian Wyman and Di Wyman who play Norman, Sir and Her Ladyship respectively. They were more than ably supported by Maggie Holland, Owen Warr, Ella Broughton and Mark Mortimer.

Norman is a slight, timid man who has worked for 16 years as the dresser for the lead actor in the theatre company whom is referred to solely as Sir. Beyond his official dressing duties, Norman is dedicated to Sir and his work. He also unofficially acts as Sir's personal assistant, morale booster, caregiver and confidante. Norman performs all of these duties, despite Sir being married to the troupe's lead actress, and he always ensures that Sir is ready to go on stage each night.

Norman relieves the stress of the job by taking a frequent nip from a bottle of whisky kept close by and always when he thinks no one will notice.

Stewart Magrath plays all the character aspects of the affable Norman superbly. He is a great pleasure to watch and totally cajoles Sir into action. Norman is agile, witty and persuasive. Both men are completely dependent on one another - Norman lives for the gratification of preparing Sir for his performances, and their intimate routine.

Sir's failing memory requires Norman to remind him of his lines, and sometimes the play he is to perform. Next to Norman, Sir is tragic and larger than life.

Adrian Wyman is excellent as Sir; totally self-absorbed, yet dignified and capable of both kindness and muddled wisdom. His tenderness with Her Ladyship during Act Two speaks of years of affection, in spite of his self-absorption. Adrian's chemistry with the brilliant Di works beautifully and is probably helped by both being together in real life.

The costumes also helped evoke the '40s with a special mention to Norman's patterned tank top.

This version of
The Dresser is a thought-provoking, funny and poignant play. The tragedy of the play is that Sir loves himself and his art above all else and pursues perfection even as his faculties begin to fail him.

Flyer for Barefoot In The Park
A scene from The Dresser

'The show must go on!'

Previewed by Clare Brittain | director

The Dresser by Ronald Harwood was first performed in the West End in 1980
and on Broadway the following year.

Harwood was an actor in his younger years and was an acting member of Sir Donald Wolfit's touring theatre company who performed Shakespeare's plays and other classic plays all over the country for many years.

The character of Sir is inspired by Wolfit. Harwood spent some time as Wolfit's dresser and also wrote a biography about him.

The play takes place in wartime England. 'Sir' and his motley company of actors have been touring the country, performing a different Shakespeare play every night.

Sir has suffered some sort of breakdown but, against doctors' orders, has made his way to the theatre where tonight's performance of
King Lear will be performed.

His wife and the stage manager don't think the performance will go ahead judging by his mental and physical condition.

Norman, his faithful dresser of over twenty years is determined that the show will go on!

Clare Brittain has also directed The Madness of King George (2007) and Amadeus (2015)