One fateful night in a small English regional theatre during World War II, a troupe of touring actors stage a production of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Bombs are falling, sirens are wailing, the curtain is up in an hour but the actor/manager ‘Sir’ (Anthony Hopkins) who is playing Lear is nowhere to be seen. His dresser ‘Norman’ (Ian McKellen) must scramble to keep the production alive but will Sir turn up in time? And if he does, will he be able to perform that night?
“The Dresser” is a wickedly funny and deeply moving story of friendship and loyalty as Sir reflects on his lifelong accomplishments and seeks to reconcile his turbulent friendships with those in his employ before the final curtain.
About the characters:
Norman is Sir’s dresser, protector and confidant. A former play-as-cast actor, he was plucked from the wings by Sir, and has since spent his career solely in his service. He exults in his status as the man closest to Sir, which strains his relationship with the others in the company. When Sir is taken ill, it is Norman who steps into the breach to lead the company, and strives to get him on stage. He has given his life to Sir, a debt that can possibly never be repaid.
Sir is the lead actor and manager of a regional touring theatre company who has spent his life performing Shakespeare. One fateful night in a small regional theatre during World War II as the troupe prepares for his 227th performance of King Lear, Sir is taken ill. As bombs fall and sirens wail, Sir cannot remember his lines or even the play they are about to perform. His manic struggle to get ready for the stage gives him cause to reflect as he seeks to reconcile his relationships with those closest to him before the final curtain falls.
Her Ladyship is Sir’s partner and a fellow member of the troupe, playing Cordelia in their production of King Lear. When Sir is taken ill, Her Ladyship’s appeals for him to retire cause a fissure between them that exposes years of regret, resentment and hurt that have been glossed over.
Madge is the Stage Manager for the company. Her cold, business-like demeanor belies a longstanding, unrequited love and devotion to Sir. More alike then they probably understand, Madge and Norman find themselves at odds, both suffering the truth of their feelings for Sir in silence.
Geoffrey Thornton is an older actor within the troupe who’s called upon to stand in as the part of the Fool, keen to use the opportunity to impress Sir. He is in many ways Sir without the title – also a stand in for those who make acting their life’s work, but never reach the heights of fame or notoriety.
Irene is an ambitious young actress in the company with a burning passion for the stage. Her determination to become the leading lady, and her infatuation with Sir, threatens to undermine Norman’s efforts to keep the company in order. He tries to hide Sir’s growing reciprocation of her attentions from Her Ladyship and Madge.
OXENBY / EDMUND
Oxenby is a frustrated amateur playwright, who takes the part of Edmund in the company’s performance of King Lear. Moody and antagonistic, he has avoided conscription in the war due to a disability. Over the course of the evening Oxenby’s sullen outlook and apparent disdain for his fellow players momentarily lifts.