Thursday 28th April to Saturday 30th April and Tuesday 3rd May to Saturday 7th May 1994
Directed by David Penrose
It's 1942, and Sir is taking Shakespeare to the provinces. A Great Actor - a colossus of the stage; a star - but is all that only what he used to be? Tonight it's Lear - or is it Othello? Or is he getting too old and forgetful for any of it? Only faithful, insignificant Norman seems to be able to hold him together at all these days. And as what cost to himself?
The Dresser is a funny, beautifully observed portrait of a shabby backstage ego at odds with the glamour and greatness of his presence on stage; and the man who sacrifices his own life to keep him going.
'The Dresser' was first performed in 1980 at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester with Tom Courteney as Norman and Freddie Jones as Sir 1981 and ran for 200 performances. It was later filmed with Courtenay repeating his performance opposite Albert Finney as Sir. The play was nominated for Best Play at the 1980 Laurence Olivier Awards and the film received 4 Oscar nominations.
Set in 1942, 'The Dresser' follows a performance and the backstage conversations of Sir, the last of the great, but dying breed of English actor-managers as he struggles through Lear with the aid of his dresser. The action takes place in the Principal Dressing Room, wings, stage and backstage corridors of a provincial English theatre during an air raid. Ronald Harwood based the play on his experiences as dresser to distinguished English Shakespearean actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit during the 1950s. However 'The Dresser' is not autobiographical; "Sir" in the play is not actually Wolfit. Rather, from his memory of those times, Harwood has woven a portrait of backstage life under a tyrannical actor-manager of a type now unknown.
This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.
|Her Ladyship/Cordelia||Ruth Prior|
|Irene/Map Carrier||Amy Jeavons|
|Sir/King Lear||Peter Corrigan|
|Geoffrey Thornton/Fool||John Batstone|
|Mr Oxenby/Edmund||Vincent Adams|
|Duke of Gloucester||John O'Hanlon|
|Duke of Kent||Tony Ford|
|A Gentleman||Michael Jenkins|
|Duke of Albany||Henry Uniake|
|A Trumpeter||Kathy O'Hanlon|
|Stage Manager||Sally Hartley|
|Assistant Stage Manager||Lindy Nettleton|
|Sound Recording||John O'Hanlon|
|Sound Operation||Jude Salmon|
|Poster Design||Pete Woodward|
|Set Design||David Penrose|
|Set Construction||Tim Taylor|
|Front of House||Sally Hartley|
"...From the early 18th century until the late 1930s the actor-manager was the British theatre. He played from one end of the country to the other, taking his repertoire to the people. Only a handful ever reached London; their stamping-ground was the provinces and they toured under awful physical conditions, undertaking long, uncomfortable railway journeys on Sundays, spending many hours waiting for their connections in the cold at Crewe. They developed profound resources of strength, essential if they were to survive. They worshipped Shakespeare, believed in the theatre as a cultural and educational force, and saw themselves as public servants. Nowadays we allow ourselves to laugh at them a little and there is no denying that their obsessions and single-mindedness often made them ridiculous; we are inclined to write them off as megalomaniacs and hams. The truth of the matter is that many of them were extraordinary and talented men; their gifts enhanced the art of acting; they nursed and kept alive a classical repertoire which is the envy of the world, and created a magnificent tradition which is the foundation of our present-day theatrical ineritance..."
Ronald Harwood - Foreword to 'The Dresser'