Lying, coaxing, ego massaging and washing underpants—it’s all in a day’s work for Norman, the dresser behind the thespian Sir in The Dresser. We gossip with Adrian Pang, who plays Norman, to learn more about the two men.
Tell us more about your love-hate relationship with Sir. What do you like or dislike about him?
I’ve been working as Sir’s dresser for the past 16 years, and I’ve become like a mother to him. And like every good mother who understands her child, I know every twist and turn of the rotten bugger’s mind. Yes, he’s a rude, high maintenance, demanding, unreasonable, ungrateful bullying brat—but he’s MY brat.
Sixteen years? What makes you stay at his side for so long even though Sir is a brat?
He needs me. He would have fallen apart if not for me, and vice versa. He had me at “hello.”
Tell us about his quirky habits.
Sir and Her Ladyship have a ritual. Before he goes on stage, Her Ladyship will say to him, “Struggle Bonzo,” which is her term of endearment for him because he reminds her of her pet dog with the same name; and he will reply, “Survival, Pussy,” which is his nickname for her because … well, never you mind.
What is the most intimate thing you’ve done for Sir?
He occasionally patronizes the local brothels when we go on tour. Once, he brought back with him a “souvenir” in the form of a rather unpleasant infection. Only I, with my years of experience, skills, special mix of bleach and lye soap, was able to wash away the tell-tale stains from his underpants.
Let us in on Sir’s wardrobe. Any exciting finds there?
He has a rather large codpiece—which serves to artificially enhance rather than protect his nether regions.
As a dresser, have you ever lied to Sir in order to make him feel better?
I lie to him all the time in order to keep his ego inflated. On several occasions, I had to hide or break his reading glasses just so he couldn’t read a particularly nasty review. Once, I told Sir that a certain critic, who had given Sir a nasty review for his King Lear, had been killed by one of Sir’s enraged fans. In actual fact, the poor man had laughed so hard at Sir’s portrayal of Richard III, that he suffered a fatal heart attack in the middle of Act One.
How quickly can you help Sir change from one costume to another?
Four seconds is my record, for helping Sir with his change from Bottom to Prospero. It’s for his bold, experimental, (and much maligned) production A Tempestuous Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Whom do you hate more in King Lear—Goneril or Regan?
Goneril, it’s because her name reminds me of a rather unpleasant incident. Remember the “souvenir” Sir brought back after a visit to one of the brothels?
If you can choose to be a character in King Lear, whom would you be and why?
Kent, because he sticks by his King through thick and thin. I can identify with that kind of unconditional loyalty. Plus, in our production, Kent gets to wear some really gorgeous orange tights.
Do you get bored of King Lear? Since you’ve watched Sir stage it 226 times.
No, every time I see King Lear, it’s like watching it for the first time. Though lately, every time Sir performs it, it’s like his first time, because he keeps forgetting his lines, the silly boy!
Do you think dressers have it easier nowadays, compared to you?
I think possibly J. Lo’s dresser has it worse than I.