Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Wrong Play!

The Dresser (1983) - Yates
The setting is WWII London. Norman (Tom Courtenay) is a dresser to an aging Shakespearean actor, known only as Sir (Albert Finney in his career best). The only reason the senile actor can marginally perform his Othello, Macbeth, Richard III, King Lear night after night without fail is because of Norman. He dresses, washes, coerces, pep-talks, encourages, feeds lines to, takes insults and rants from the old man.

Sir has a close call and ends up in a hospital after he throws a fit in the bombed out London street. As the theater staff contemplate on shutting down the production, they find him returned to his dressing room and being incoherent. Is he going to be somewhat ready for tonight's performance of King Lear?

With Ronald Harwood (The Pianist, Diving Bell and the Butterfly)'s blistering script, the two of the most gifted British actors go mano-a-mano. Watching them in real time as Norman harangues downright deranged Sir to get ready is an exhausting experience. Norman is at once Salieri to Sir's Mozart, Felix to Oscar, Ratso to Buck, King to Fool. Thanks to Courtenay, Norman's affection and devotion for his master is real and heartfelt. Very awesome.