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A reviews round-up for The Dresser at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Ken Stott and Reece Shearsmith shine in the much anticipated revival of Ronald Harwood’s acclaimed play The Dresser.

Premiering at the Manchester Exchange 36 years ago, Harwood’s Olivier and Tony Award nominated play returns to the West End for the first time in a decade in a new production by Sean Foley.

Both hilarious and poignant, The Dresser explores the relationship between two men who are reluctantly and inevitably co-dependent in this story of an aging tragedian.

Stott and Shearsmith have been lauded for their performances as have supporting actors Harriet Thorpe and Selina Cadell.

The Dresser runs 14 January 2017 at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

Here’s a round-up of reviews from The Guardian, Time Out, Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph and The Stage.

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REVIEWS ROUND-UP

STAR RATING The Daily Telegraph

‘Ken Stott is magnificent, Reece Shearsmith a revelation’

“Ken Stott, such a masterful actor, never found wanting, is magnificent as Sir, but the revelation is Reece Shearsmith as Norman. 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 place of psychological perturbation no less harrowing or stirring than the madness that afflicts his employer.”

Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph

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STAR RATING Time Out

“Sean Foley’s revival embraces all the joy of Harwood’s text, which is stuffed full of theatreland cliches and in-jokes for Shakespeare die-hards. Reece Shearsmith is a delight as Sir’s loyal dresser Norman, fawning over his embroidered frocks and cajoling him into acting the part. He’s agile, witty and persuasive as any Iago. Next to him, Stott is tragic and massive, greasepaint caked on his doleful face like a doberman who’s got at a cream bun.”

Alice Saville, Time Out

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STAR RATING Evening Standard

“Stott and Shearsmith shine”

“Ken Stott is as good as he always is as Sir, who alternates between bellowing and weeping as he himself undergoes a frightening Lear-like disintegration. Yet the play is not called The Dresser for nothing, and the evening belongs to the terrific Reece Shearsmith as Norman, endlessly loyal helper cum fixer cum cajoler and the reason the Sir show didn’t close years ago.”

“Shearsmith packs in a potent and toxic cocktail of emotions beneath Norman’s façade of pragmatic, camp cheerfulness; no wonder the rest of the company keep a wary distance, especially when the half bottle of brandy he downs in surreptitious sips begins to empty.”

“Harriet Thorpe fails to get the full measure of Her Ladyship, Sir’s tired and frustrated actress wife, and an awkward design misses that crucial sense of the make-do-and-mend wartime era. Even so, this remains an indestructibly watchable play.”

Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard

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STAR RATING The Guardian

“Stott certainly captures Sir’s blend of physical disintegration and professional survival: first seen sobbing uncontrollably at his dressing room table, his eyes acquire a fitful gleam at the magic words “full house”. Stott, who has something of the earthiness of Leo McKern, also embodies the durability of the old pro who knows how to use a stentorian voice to outdo thunder sheets and wind machines. But, while Stott is very good at conveying the contradictions of Harwood’s falling star, his performance will be even better when it makes the gear changes less visible.

Shearsmith, as he proved when playing the executioner’s mate in Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen, is adept at portraying the creepiness of life’s second fiddles, and his Norman is already spot-on: dapper, busy, waspish and seething with love-hate towards the actor on whom he totally depends. Even if the joke about the need for a light Cordelia is overdone, Harriet Thorpe invests Sir’s long-suffering partner, Her Ladyship, with a mix of majesty and clear-sightedness, and Selina Cadell is the epitome of the briskly sensible stage manager.”

Michael Billington, The Guardian

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STAR RATING The Stage

[Harwood’s play is] “a resonant and still relevant portrait of backstage life, even if the theatrical times it describes recede into distant history, so delicately and humanely charted, both in Harwood’s witty, moving script, and in a wonderful set of performances.”

“Ken Stott is magnificent. Reece Shearsmith lends his character a sparky, practical determination that contains its own core of sadness – it is a pitiably vulnerable, heartbreaking performance.”

“Written two years before Noises Off, The Dresser provides a similar view from the wings, but The Dresser is both more affecting and affectionate in director Sean Foley’s loving production.”

Mark Shenton, The Stage

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