Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith has been gathering rave reviews for their performances as Sir and Norman respectively in Sean Foley’s excellent revival of Ronald Harwood’s classic play THE DRESSER, which ends its run at London’s Duke of York’s theatre next week. I drew a sketch of them together and also individual character drawings which they both signed at the stage door. This is Reece in a ‘Norman’ montage as the officious gate-keeper to Sir’s lair.
In his review, The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish called Reece’s performance as a ‘revelation’ and said, “There’s simply not a line mistimed, a movement misjudged and the particular triumph is that the 47-year-old comic actor takes us from entertaining,surface-polished camp mannerism, lots of limp wrists and arch, waspish asides, to a placed psychological perturbation, no less harrowing or stirring than the madness that afflicts his employer.”
THE DRESSER, considered Ronald Harwood’s greatest play, returned to the West End this month at the Duke of York’s Theatre with Ken Stott as ‘Sir’ and Reece Shearsmith as his devoted dresser Norman, directed by Sean Foley.
The story of an ageing actor’s personal assistant who struggles to keep his charge’s life together takes place over the course of one night in a small English regional theatre during the Second World War. It’s based on Sir Ronald’s own experience as the dresser for English actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit who is the model for ‘Sir.’
The Oscar-winning playwright is always puzzled by the play’s popularity. When it opened at Manchester’s Exchange Theatre in 1980 he thought it would only last six weeks. It’s been a long six weeks. The original production transferred to the Queen’s Theatre in London’s West End a few months later before moving to Broadway and in 1983 a film starring Albert Finney as Sir and Tom Courtenay as Norman (who reprised the role in both stage and screen versions) was released. In all formats THE DRESSER was nominated for multiple Olivier, Tony and Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.
I caught up with Ken and Reece earlier this week at the Duke of York’s during previews before tomorrow night’s opening and they signed my Dresser drawing for me.
A superb revival of Alan Ayckbourne’s Absent Friends, a comedy about bereavement and the death of love was staged at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London during the spring of 2012. Directed by Jeremy Herrin, the critically-acclaimed production had a stellar cast in alphabetical order, David Armand, Elizabeth Berrington, Katherine Parkinson, Steffan Rhodri, Reece Sheersmith and Kara Tointon – all of whom signed my sketch. Usually with larger casts it takes a few visits to the stage door to complete the set, but on this occasion the ‘graph god was smiling and as they all arrived for a saturday matinée on a sunny mid-april afternoon, one at a time in perfect procession, my mission was accomplished.