Touring production seen in Plymouth.
Ronald Harwood's play, set in a wartime regional theatre, is a picture of a crumbling Shakespearian rep company long past its prime. "Sir" is a famed and feted old-school actor who tours his company trying to bring Shakespeare to the masses despite the bombings, the lack of young actors and his seriously failing health and mental stability.
He is supported in his endeavours by his dresser, Norman, his partner who has had enough, a stage manager who has always loved him and whatever actors he can pull together. The story roveloves mostly around the relationship between Sir and Norman - it is Norman that he, and the whole troupe, relies on to get him on stage every night; Lear today, Richard II tomorrow, The merchant of Venice then Lear again ... and repeat. The stories of Lear and Sir run parallel - a fading and disrupted kingdom, madness and the descent to chaos and death.
On the evening we saw, Sir was actually not played by Matthew Kelly but by Peter Yapp who filled the role admirably. I am rarely phased by finding an understudy on stage and often surprised and impressed - as I was last night, a strong and confident performance. Julian Clary's Norman is a delight. This is a clever and thoughtful depiction of a strangely sad character who talks a lot and reveals almost nothing until the end - every word, and there are a lot, was clear which was a blessing. The Sir/Norman relationship was credibly and sympathetically portrayed. Overall, a strong cast.
A clever set, great sound and skillful lighting, along with pacey direction that also knows when to hold the pauses make for a most enjoyable night of theatre.