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Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly to star in a new production of The Dresser

Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly in The Dresser

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THEATRE Royal Bath Productions and Everyman Theatre Cheltenham have announced a brand new production and UK tour of Ronald Harwood’s highly acclaimed drama The Dresser starring popular UK entertainer Julian Clary as Norman and Olivier Award winner Matthew Kelly as ‘Sir’.

Directed by Terry Johnson, The Dresser will run at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre from September 10 to September 19, 2020, followed by Theatre Royal Bath from September 21 to September 26. The production will continue to tour until Spring 2021 with further dates and venues to be announced in due course.

Inspired by memories of working as Donald Wolfit’s dresser as a young man, Ronald Harwood’s evocative, affectionate and hilarious portrait of backstage life is regarded as one of the most acclaimed dramas of modern theatre.

It is 1942 and in a war-torn provincial theatre an aging actor-manager, known to his loyal acting company as ‘Sir’, is struggling to cling on to his sanity and complete his 227th performance of King Lear. For 16 years Norman, Sir’s devoted dresser, has been there to fix Sir’s wig, massage his ego, remind him of his opening lines and provide the sound effects in the storm scene. It is down to Norman to ensure that in spite of everything, the show goes on.

Julian Clary has performed across the world and is renowned for his many successes across television, radio, film, writing and stand-up comedy. His roles on stage include Leigh Bowery in Boy George’s Taboo (West End and national tour), the Emcee in Rufus Norris’s Olivier Award-winning production of Cabaret (West End), and Le Grand Mort (Trafalgar Studios). Clary also regularly performs in panto and will return to the London Palladium this Christmas in Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

Clary’s many TV credits include Trick or Treat, Saturday Night Live, Sticky Moments, Terry and Julian, All Rise, Strictly Come Dancing, Have I Got News For You and QI. He toured the UK earlier this year with his latest one-man comedy show Born To Mince.

Matthew Kelly is an Olivier Award-winning actor who is currently starring in Big The Musical in the West End. He is also well known for presenting the television series Stars in their Eyes and You Bet!. Kelly’s other West End credits include Waiting For Godot with Ian McKellen and Roger Rees, Funny Peculiar, Sign of the Times, Lend Me A Tenor!, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and as Lennie in Of Mice and Men (Savoy Theatre) for which he received the Olivier Award for Best Actor. Other recent theatre credits include Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art, Pride & Prejudice (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre/UK Tour), and Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare’s Globe).

Kelly’s many television credits include the award-winning Cold Blood, Benidorm, Bleak House and Moving On.

Ronald Harwood is an Academy Award, Palme d’Or and BAFTA-winning screenwriter and playwright. His plays include Taking Sides, Equally Divided and Quartet. His screenplay for the film of The Dresser received five Academy Award nominations, including Best Screenplay. His films include the Academy Award-winning The Pianist, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Love in the Time of Cholera.

Terry Johnson is a dramatist and director who has won numerous theatre awards including two Olivier Awards as a playwright for Best Comedy and a Tony Award for Best Director of a Musical for La Cage Aux Folles. Other West End credits include The Libertine, End of the Rainbow, The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, The Duck House, Whipping It Up and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He recently directed Uncle Vanya at the Hampstead Theatre and has previously directed Mrs. Henderson Presents, Hysteria and The Libertine at Bath.