The Dresser is Ronald Harwood’s play about two men: Norman played by Julian Clary and “Sir” played by Matthew Kelly who is an aging Shakespearean actor and Norman his personal assistant. Clary in particular brings an air of protection towards “Sir”. He defends him with a vigour which is almost impenetrable, no one gets passed him. Harwood has constructed the play to clearly show the mutual respect the two actors must have when playing their respective roles. The sexuality of both Norman and “Sir” are not confirmed or mentioned in the play but you could hazard a guess. The large supporting cast do add some atmosphere but the attention is firmly on Clary and Kelly, as it should be. The comedy elements in the play are well crafted and the delivery of the lines is beautifully controlled with a dry sense of humour typical of the jokes and style of London in 1942.
This is a play about friendship and honesty and loneliness, with both actors giving each other time to shine when they both have long sections of dialogue to get over. Director Terry Jonson gets a well crafted and measured performance out of Clary and Kelly. Clary especially as his natural charismatic personality was not over the top, and this mirrored with Kelly’s sense of sight aloofness, made the whole performance very watchable. Put into the mix a wonderful set and costume design by Tim Shortall and this production, which is scheduled to tour, should do good business.