The League of Gentleman star Reece Shearsmith’s trailblazing work has often been incomparable to but in his latest role he will undoubtedly find audiences holding him up to some of the industry’s greats.

The 46-year-old will star in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, which comes to Richmond Theatre in September before a three month stint in the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre.

The story of an ageing actor and his personal assistant Norman trying to get him on stage, it was a smash in the West End and Broadway in the 1980s and a BAFTA, Oscar and Golden Globe nominee on the big screen starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay.

Last year, two more acting legends – Sirs Ian McKellen and Anthony Hopkins - tackled the text for television.

Shearsmith told us it was important he made the part his own.

He said: “It’s hard. You can’t help but think of the people that have done it and done it brilliantly. You have just got to think it is a part and I have got to bring my version of Norman and I’ll bring to it whatever I can.

“Things are a bit thin on the ground if the script isn’t very good but this is such a great script.”

He added: “You have just got to try and go for it. You could not bear to do Hamlet again knowing who has done it in the past but you have just got to do it, you have got to bite the bullet. We’ll do our version.”

Starring opposite Shearsmith in The Dresser is multi-award winning TV, film and stage star Ken Stott (the Hobbit, Rebus) in the role of the veteran actor, Sir.

Shearsmith said: “He is an absolute titan of an actor on stage and screen, so it is quite daunting to be working with him. But it is good in a way, it feels like I am Norman to his Sir.”

Shearsmith’s CV is impeccable - a career that spans the range The League of Gentlemen to Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen at the Royal Court and also includes smaller parts in iconic projects such as Alan Partridge’s Mid Morning Matters and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy – so it is clear he picks his work and his collaborators very well.

He said: “I think I have managed to work with a lot of people I really admire, especially in the comedy world. I have worked with all the greats I was fans of: Vic and Bob, Steve Coogan, Victoria Wood.”

He added: “I try to imagine myself in ten or 20 years looking back at my CV and thinking ‘would you be ashamed or would you be proud?’ so I try to carefully pick.

“I’m in a position where because I do my own thing as well, when I’m not being an actor for hire I can get on with that.

“It is sort of brilliant that Steve [Pemberton] and I can create Inside No. 9 – there is a lot of pressure with that because it is our baby and we present it to the world and we are dreading what people will make of it, but it is thrilling as well that we’re creating something.”

Inside No. 9 is Shearsmith and his League of Gentleman and Psychoville colleague Pemberton’s award-nominated typically dark comedy anthology, where the only thing that links each half hour episode it is set inside a property that is a number nine.

The pair have already wrapped series three and it is due to air while Shearsmith is appearing in the West End.

He said: “It is like doing six pilots. You have got to do all of these different stories and ultimately deliver and hook people in and make people intrigued each week, without feeling that we are repeating ourselves.

“I think we have managed to deliver another six that are good and have our dark stamp across them.

“It is a particularly dark series, even for us. It is funny as well, hopefully.”

Reece Shearsmith is stars in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser at Richmond Theatre from September 8 to 17 before it heads to the West End at the Duke of York’s Theatre from October until January. Go to

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