THE new production of Ronald Harwood's The Dresser at the Theatre Royal in Bath is as good as drama gets.

With Matthew Kelly as Sir and Julian Clary as Norman, the play is the best piece of theatre I've seen in months.

Bath audiences are the first to see this new production of Ronald Harwood’s Broadway and West End hit and I have to say it's good, very good.

The production features a 12-strong cast led by TV entertainer Julian Clary and Olivier Award-winning actor Matthew Kelly and is directed by Olivier Award-winning Terry Johnson.

Opening at the Theatre Royal, where it appears to Saturday, the 2021 UK tour is produced by Theatre Royal Bath Productions and Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre.

It is 1942 and in a war-torn provincial theatre an ageing actor-manager, known to his loyal acting company as ‘Sir’, is struggling to cling on to his sanity after a nervous breakdown and complete his 227th performance of King Lear.

It is down to Norman, Sir’s devoted dresser, to ensure that in spite of everything, the show goes on. For 16 years Norman 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.

Written in 1980 by Ronald Harwood, and inspired by his memories of working as Donald Wolfit’s dresser as a young man, this evocative, affectionate and hilarious portrait of backstage life is one of the most acclaimed dramas of modern theatre.

The two leading actors give wonderfully sensitive performances of the relationship between Sir and Norman, with lovely support from Emma Amos as Her Ladyship and Rebecca Charles as stage manager Madge. It's compelling theatre and very definitely worth the ticket.

John Baker