THE hilarious yet poignant play The Dresser is coming to Bolton next week.

Billed as Ronald Harwood's greatest play, the production is being staged by Bolton Little Theatre

The story follows the lives of two men, both dedicated to the theatre and both inextricably linked to each other.

One a great Shakespearean actor, now at the end of his career, and the other his faithful assistant and the ‘dresser’ of the title ­—the theatrical equivalent of a valet.

Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, the actor ‘Sir’ ­— his real name is never discovered ­— is touring Britain raising morale with his theatrical company and their production of King Lear with him in the lead role and his wife as ‘Cordelia’ while the might of the German Luftwaffe rages overhead.

His loyal dresser of thirty years ‘Norman’ must guide his master through the vicissitudes of an actor’s life, particularly now in the twilight if his career as he himself struggles to realise how important ‘Sir’ has become to him.

Ronald Harwood based his play on his own experiences as the dresser to the actor / manager Sir Donald Wolfit in the 1950s.

“The play is not just an insight to life as it used to be on the professional stage,” said director Jolyon Coombs, “or even a retrospective view of life during the dark days of WWII. What we have is an incisive study of personal relationships in the very closed social environment of a theatrical touring company.”

And Jolyon should know - not only has he been a professional actor himself, he actually worked with Harwood himself during his career.

Peter Scofield, who plays ‘Sir’, recalls seeing the debut performance of The Dresser at the Royal Exchange in 1980.

He said:“I never thought then that I’d get the chance to play the monstrous but somehow magnificent role of ‘Sir’ in this play.

"But it’s certainly a privilege to play the part and with a terrific company, and not least to be directed by Jolyon."

Gary Carrol plays ‘Norman’, the eponymous ‘Dresser’ of the title.

“Norman’ has been played by many brilliant actors whom I admire,” he said, "not least Tom Courtney who played the part in the original production and in the film version, and most recently Sir Ian McKellen and Reece Shearsmith so I’m looking forward with great anticipation to filing those shoes next week.”

The Dresser runs from April 8 to 13t at Bolton Little Theatre, Hanover Street, Bolton, BL1 4TG. Tickets available from the Bolton Little Theatre website or via phone (or in person) from the theatre. Phone 01204 524469.