The Dresser

Bolton Little Theatre

Until Saturday

BOLTON Little Theatre presents The Dresser, Ronald Harwood’s sharp yet poignant tragi-comedy about life backstage. It offers one of the great theatrical monsters in the shape of Sir, a fiendishly self-obsessed actor-manager, whose wartime repertory company is on an endless tour of the provinces.

Harwood's central character is dresser to one such company leader, the backstage assistant who doubles, as needed, as counsellor, nanny, doorkeeper, tea boy and sound effects man.

We watch him at work in all these roles on the night of wartime bombing that his ageing star chooses to have a nervous breakdown from exhaustion, as the dogsbody guides and pushes his boss through one more performance as King Lear.

Gary Carrol plays the dresser, Norman with ease, all camp fluttering on the surface, but with both a hard edge that come out in self-revealing anecdotes that tend to begin 'I had a friend who...' A very good performance from Gary.

Peter Scofield plays ‘Sir’ perfectly showing us both the foolishness and the surprising nobility of a man who is clearly a second-rate artist but is as driven as any star by the demands of his art. A great performance from Peter.

Good support from Frances Clemmitt who plays his long-suffering wife and co-star who manages to convey, with a look or a sigh, the years of frustration and exhaustion.

Jennifer Lee plays stage manager Madge whose stoic loyalty is founded on decades of unrequited love. Very good performances from both.

Also, good support from Anna Tomkinson, Alan Carney, Vincent Bradley, Niall McFadden and Andrew Beard who play members of the Shakespearean company.

Ultimately this is a play of relationships and passion for ones’ work, the need to please and be there even though when the curtain goes up the people are slowly ebbing away from the glory that was once your career. What does happen when the audiences vanish? Well, there's always The Dresser and the family formed back stage.

Runs until Saturday

Jason Crompton