DRY ROT: John Chapman
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry till 27 10 12
Runs: 2h 10m, one interval
Review: Alexander Ray, Belgrade Theatre, 22 10 12
Classic of its kind, and far from rotting.
DRY ROT, written in 1954 as one of the Brian Rix / Whitehall farces, is a classic of the genre. A genre which has gone somewhat out of fashion, but which is having something of a revival these days.
A retired couple buy a large house in the country to run it as an hotel. Their first guests are a con-men parading as aristocracy – they aim to knobble a horse entered into the local races and make thousands of pounds. With a staircase, several doors, a secret panel, a Frenchman and a loopy maid we have the essential ingredients of a truly English farce. (No vicar . . . strange.)
Director Keith Myers has pulled back from the usual large acting (which frequently comes with dollops of mugging attached) and has encouraged the acting company to develop more three dimensional characters (where possible.) For the most part this works will, with some lovely performances, though, from time to time, the play could be energised a little more.
Neil Stacy and Liza Goddard create enchanting Wagstaffs (the hotel owners) ably aided and abetted by Evelyn Adams as their giggling daughter – clearly enjoying the shenanigans. Andrew Paul scores mighty highly as Alfred Tubbe switching from aristo to con-man with comedic ease and speed.
Central to the play is the sequence in which none-too-bright Fred Phipps (Steven Blakeley) is taught by Tubbe to ride a horse, using the back of a sofa. It’s preceded by a brilliantly executed duologue between the two adult Wagstaffs about a piano tuner. The horse-riding set piece is stunningly performed, searing itself delightfully into our collective farce memory.
Colonel Wagstaff: Neil Stacy
Mrs Wagstaff: Liza Goddard
Beth: Gemma Bissix
Susan Wagstaff: Evelyn Adams
John Danby: Mark Martin
Fred Phipps: Steven Blakeley
Alfred Tubbe: Andrew Paul
Flash Harry: Gareth Hale
Albert Polignac: Michael Keane
Sergeant Fire: Sarah Whitlock
Directed by: Keith Myers
Designed by: Duncan Parker
Sound Design by: Daniel Herbert
Costume Designer: Denis Blatchford
Production Manager: Oliver Fricker
Lighting Designer: George Bernard Gallagher