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A: Ronald Harwood Pf: 1980, Manchester Pb: 1980 G: Tragicom. in 2 acts S: Dressing room and backstage of a provincial theatre, England, 1942 C: 8m, 3fNorman, for 16 years Sir's loyal dresser, has had to take the elderly actor to hospital, because he discovered him ranting and throwing away his clothes in the market just after an air raid. Now he is worried because Sir is due to perform King Lear that night. Just as his common-law wife (‘Her Ladyship’) and the stage manager Madge are about to cancel the performance, Sir walks in, still weeping but determined to go on. Coaxed by the patient Norman, Sir makes himself up for the performance, which suffers from a lack of good actors, since many have been called up into the army, and one has been arrested for homosexuality. An air raid begins, but the performance of King Lear begins. After a delayed start, Sir gets into his stride, but is furious that the storm is not loud enough. He triumphantly concludes the play, but is exhausted when he gets back to his dressing room. As Norman gets him ready to go home, Sir quietly dies, and Norman, bitter with grief and frightened about his own future, comments: ‘Wasn't much of a death scene. Unremarkable and ever so short.’

A: Ronald Harwood Pf: 1980, Manchester Pb: 1980 G: Tragicom. in 2 acts S: Dressing room and backstage of a provincial theatre, England, 1942 C: 8m, 3f

Harwood's fond recreation of one of a dying breed of actor-managers draws parallels between Sir and Lear: both are men whose lives are transformed by being dispossessed of their former power; both find themselves cast adrift in a scene of desolation, the war and the blasted heath. ‘Under threat from the powers of darkness’, Sir tenaciously serves ‘the greatest poet-dramatist who has ever lived’: ‘each word I speak will be a shield against your savagery.’

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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