The cast of Abbey Theatre’s latest production give a fantastically nuanced performance of what happens back stage at the theatre.
There was a full house for the first night of The Dresser which provides an opportunity for the cast to portray a number of very complex characters and they rise to the challenge exceedingly well.
Producer Anne Smith is fortunate to have chosen a cast which can match the complexity of their characters.
The titular dresser, Norman, is played by Philip Pennant Jones who is on top form as a damaged man clinging to the equally damaged life-line that is his actor-manager.
Norman is a multi-faceted character, initially laconic, the more he swigs from his hip flask the more he opens up, revealing how protective he is of ‘Sir’, while smoothing out behind the scenes ‘wrinkles’.
‘Sir’, or Bonzo as ‘Her Ladyship’ calls him, is played by a tempestuous Mark Masson, in a role that could almost have been tailored to fit.
Mark must be commended for his ability to apply his own make-up without a mirror while at the same time delivering his lines perfectly.
Caroline Pennant Jones plays ‘Her Ladyship’, the long suffering leading lady. Her concern for Bonzo is paramount, but her love has worn hard over the years.
Geoffrey Thornton (Geoff Bray) is a small role with a big impact, delivering a monologue which sums up how Sir and all other actors feel about their profession.
Pat McInroy captures the essence of stage manager Madge who has buried her emotions for 20 years.
Jim Shaw as Oxenby and Lisa-Marie Woods as Irene are both on form as potential threats to Sir, one as an enemy, the other as a temptation.
The Abbey’s own stage crew must also be heartily commended. They have made great use of the space with a clever cut-away. The props were all authentic, from the greasepaint and glue to the thunder-maker, wind-machine and costumes.
The Abbey have again tested the range of their talent and not found it wanting.