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Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly appear in The Dresser at Theatre Royal Norwich

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Two household names, Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly, unite in this touching play which sees

Clary as Norman, the loyal dresser to Kelly’s ageing Shakespearian actor, Sir.

Despite being a beautiful study of decline, there are many wonderfully funny lines, not to mention some very politically incorrect ones, as The Dresser fights to get a confused Sir on stage as King Lear.

Written by Ronald Harwood (perhaps best known as the writer of the hit movie The Pianist) in 1980, it is set in the early 1940s and examines the relationship between the two men, as well as those with the actor’s wife, her Ladyship (Emma Amos), and the devoted stage manager Madge (Rebecca Charles).

Matthew Kelly and Julian Clary in The Dresser. Photo: Alastair Muir (51972239)
Matthew Kelly and Julian Clary in The Dresser. Photo: Alastair Muir (51972239)

Clary brings all his charisma to the part, playing it with many of his own well known mannerisms, while Kelly dominates as the elderly thespian who is, at one moment, all booming voice and vain ego and, the next, simply a befuddled pensioner.

It’s quite a claustrophobic piece, set backstage in a ramshackled theatre as wartime bombs continue to drop, but succeeds as a thorough investigation of friendship and of those wonderful rep actors who simply don’t exist any more.

The play continues until Saturday.

Sarah Hardy

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