Review: Embers Theatre Company performs The Dresser

Embers Theatre Company's production of The Dresser. PIctured are Norman (the dresser) - Phillip Hadley
Her Ladyship                - Margaret Thompson
Sir                                   - Mike Parkinson-Brown
Geoffrey Thornton      - John Cameron 
Irene                              - Karen Pinder
Mr Oxenby                   - Richard Parkinson-Brown
Embers Theatre Company's production of The Dresser. PIctured are Norman (the dresser) - Phillip Hadley Her Ladyship - Margaret Thompson Sir - Mike Parkinson-Brown Geoffrey Thornton - John Cameron Irene - Karen Pinder Mr Oxenby - Richard Parkinson-Brown
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A powerful play in the hands of a talented cast is capable of moving people to tears.

And that’s just what The Dresser is doing in Barlborough this week.

A few spectators had watery eyes at the end of the performance in The Little School last night (Friday).

Even the main man Philip Hadley had to turn his back on the audience momentarily at the final curtain.

Philip puts in an incredibly moving performance as Norman, dresser to an actor-manager, with an enormous amount of lines to remember and an incredible attention to detail.

The audience doesn’t find out much about Norman’s private life suffice to say that he is incredibly neat and has multiple friends whose experiences he draws on to offer advice (although one wonders if they are make-believe). He’s devoted 16 years to serving his master who he defends to the hilt even if it’s driving him to drink.

Norman also makes the audience believe that no-one loves his boss as much as he does - but that deep affection is a one-way street.

Mike Parkinson-Brown plays Sir, the actor-manager who is mentally unstable but insists on discharging himself from hospital to play King Lear. Sir veers between ultra-confident and a quivering wreck with Mike’ capturing these extremes of behaviour perfectly in a first-rate performance.

Margaret Thompson inhabits the role of Sir’s long-suffering spouse Her Ladyship whom she portrays as a strong=willed, yet caring and vulnerable character.

Supporting roles are played by Naomi Conway as the efficient stage manager Madge with Karen Pinder, Richard Parkinson-Brown and Fred Cameron playing members of the Shakespearean company.

The tiny stage at the Little School lends itself to the claustrophobic confines of a dressing room where Sir prepares himself for the role of King Lear, making up his face, sticking on a fake beard and adding a mane of hair.

Later in the play curtains are drawn across to depict back stage where the actors are creating sound effects with a timpani and wind machine for the storm scene in King Lear.

Sound effects of air raid sirens add to the atmosphere of a play which is set during the Second World War.

Directed by Drew Davies, this production by Embers Theatre Company is one of the best shows that I have seen by an amateur group. The final performance is tonight (Saturday, June 18) at 7.30pm.