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"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have
lighted fools
The way to dusty death. "
(Macbeth: Act V Scene V)

'The Dresser' by Ronald Harwood

stones JULY 2008

Directed by: Karen Sahlsberg
Lighting by: Phil Donoghue
Sound by: Alex Lyon
Cast: David Webb, Richard Parish, Sandra Donoghue, Shirley Cumming, Katrina Hester, John Tytherleigh and Malcolm Coleman

For a direct link to the GALLERY of PHOTOGRAPHS of this production CLICK: The Dresser
Inspired by the memories of his years working as Donald Wolfit's dresser, Ronald Harwood's evocative, perceptive and hilarious portrait of backstage life is one of the most acclaimed dramas of modern theatre. In a war-torn, provincial theatre an ageing actor manager, known to the loyal acting company as 'Sir', is struggling to keep a grip on his sanity and complete his two hundred and twenty seventh performance of King Lear. Thanks to the efforts of Herr Hitler, all the able-bodied actors are in uniform and bombs are destroying theatres across the country, but the show must go on. Ensuring that it does is Norman, Sir's devoted dresser, who for sixteen years has been there to fix his wig, massage his ego, remind him of his opening lines and provide the sound effects to the storm scenes.

  Lighted Fools Theatre Company’ is rapidly attracting appreciative audiences from a wide Surrey area; they present their productions in Guildford, Cranleigh and on this occasion in Walton at the attractive Riverhouse Barn. This production was Ronald Harwood’s ‘The Dresser.’ Harwood joined Sir Donald Wolfit’s post war Shakespeare Company as an actor-dresser. In retrospect Wolfit can now be regarded as the last of the old style actor managers. Harwood wrote, “They worshipped Shakespeare, believed in the theatre as a cultural and educative force and saw themselves as public servants” and he draws on this experience with a script that is inspired by – though not a portrait of – Donald Wolfit, along with the frustrations of touring in wartime Britain with long waits for connections on a windswept platform at Crewe. Set in 1941 the script charts a back stage life essentially through ‘Sir’s’ interaction with ‘Norman’ his dresser – a dresser who panders to his whims, wants, women, wigs and in between vigorously massages his ego too. There is a sense of complete authenticity to the writing; “Come Sir it’s time to age!” says Norman, as he assists Sir to prepare for what will be his final role as King Lear. “I saw his Hamlet,” says Sir about a colleague, “I was pleasantly disappointed!” David Webb, as Norman the dresser, brings a practised compassion to his interpretation of the role. It possessed an assurance that originated from a player clearly in charge of his lines. All too often the role can be ridiculed – even mangled – by waspish effeminacy but this was avoided by Webb who gave an observed characterisation that occasionally hinted at the effete but allowed the dialogue full reign to speak. Richard Parish offered a mesmerising interpretation of ‘Sir’ - blending egomania and charisma into a barnstorming performance that roller coasted from ‘Sir’s’ public persona to the disillusioned old man coping with exhaustion and death. The ‘dying scene’ was played to a hushed audience obviously involved with the moment. Period detail, a supporting cast that was empathetic to the story, together with lighting and sound effects that were timed to perfection enhanced both the central performances and evening. The play was directed by Karen Sahlsberg.


Excellent stuff again - think 'Norman' could easily hold his own on the London Stage.

The performances of Sir and Norman were superb - so controlled in parts that could easily descend into caricature. Thanks for continuing the good work to bring good am dram to the masses.

Excellent evening. We thoroughly enjoyed 'The Dresser'. Thought all the cast were good but exceptional performances from Norman and Sir. Very well done, we hope the remaining performances go well.

Last night five us from the Players went to see your production of 'The Dresser' - we simply want to thank you, each and every one involved in the production, for a perfect evening's entertainment. From awesome acting, to wonderful props and inventive set design and use of limited space - there wasn't a weak link to be seen and it couldn't have been bettered on a West End stage. Very well done to you all, and we look forward to seeing what comes next!

Just to let you know that we thoroughly enjoyed the play last night. Super acting.

Lighted Fools production of 'The Dresser' was superb. We thought the acting and staging were brilliant. Sir, so broken and fractured, with bursts of lucidity and bursts of faded grandeur. Norman, the perfect 'dresser', mannerisms and cajoling all done with just the right tone. Enjoyed every minute.

Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed the play last night. I had only seen a TV version (might have been a film?) but felt yours really worked well in the space..

Just to let you know that we thoroughly enjoyed the play last night. Super acting especially from Sir and Norman.

Just a short note to say how much I enjoyed the play last night. I thought all the actors were very good.

Great play – brilliant performances. Well done- congratulations as always. So glad I managed to get there.

Congratulations on an excellent show which I caught this evening.  I thought the acting was universally first-rate. The direction was very novel and imaginative. Thanks for an excellent evening's entertainment.

Congratulations on another fine production. Very much enjoyed last night’s performance. Well done to everyone involved. Looking forward to the next.

Thought the play was absolutely terrific. How you all managed four nights on the trot I cant think- it must have been really taxing.

Just a quick note of thanks and congratulations to all the Lighted Fools for a brilliant performance last Friday. We thoroughly enjoyed our evening as, I am sure, did the rest of the audience. Drama, pathos and a few laughs along the way ... great stuff.

I enjoyed the play very much- all the cast were excellent. The set was super, and the use of the space available was brilliant.

This is a tardy response to your wonderful performances last week (went away for a few days) but had to let you know how much we both enjoyed The Dresser. The characters you created were superb – I was totally drawn in by you both and very impressed, again, by your versatility. LOVED the staging and the clever use of the Barn’s unusual shape and the storm scene was very funny – more please ….!

I very much enjoyed 'The Dresser'. I was particularly impressed by the balance between the many tender duologues and the fulminations of Sir. It was such a treat to have such contrasts within one play. I seem to have seen rather a lot lately of 'one constant stream' productions. I was very impressed with the performance of Sir and Norman was just right, with his non over the top performance. Another bonus was the fact that we all 'got a bit' as cleverly, the cast moved subtly each way. The detail in the costumes was spot on.

What a great play and what great actors. I thought you were all magnificent and your performance outstanding. An interesting production too which made excellent use of the space as well as a challenge. I thought it worked well.

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