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Dry Rot

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 27th Jun 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

DR Hale Pace Goddard Nesbitt - resized.jpg



When Alfred Tubbe (Derren Nesbitt), a crooked bookie, and his two accomplices, Fred Phipps (Norman Pace) and Flash Harry (Gareth Hale), devise a cunning plan to ‘get-rich-quick’ by kidnapping the odds-on favourite horse and replacing it with their own decrepit nag, thus netting a tidy £10,000 in the process, you instantly know that they will have to jump more hurdles than they expect to get past the final post.

Written by John Chapman, and first performed in 1954, Dry Rot ran for more than three years in the West End and is listed in the National Theatres’ Top 100 plays. This latest production boasts a cast which comprises a line-up of odds-on favourites from the stage and the small screen – all of whom are under starter’s orders and raring to go. So, with such good form, why doesn’t Dry Rot romp to victory? After all, the essential ingredients required for a classic farce are all there: secret-doors; physical comedy; misunderstood situations; stock characters and blossoming love.

Part of the problem, I fear, is because the piece feels slightly dated. Add to that some dodgy directorial decisions from Ron Aldridge, which hinder the required split-second comedy timing and flaw the physical comedy, and the die is almost set.

However, it is the stellar cast who collectively save this production – and they do so with admirable talent, flair and panache. Neil Stacey is perfect as the ex-military man turned hotelier, Colonel Wagstaff, and his pairing with Liza Goddard (as his ‘home counties headmistress-type’ wife) works nicely. Evelyn Adams, as Susan, and Bob Saul, as Danby, make a charming love-struck young couple, whilst the slapstick is provided, of course, by Hale and Pace. Throw into the mix Susan Penhaligon as a delightfully ditzy housekeeper (who easily steals every scene she is in!) and you can hardly go far wrong!

Mention must also be made of Sarah Whitlock (Sergeant Fire) and Michael Keane (Albert Polignac) who both take relatively minor roles and make them altogether more important.

This production may not be a dead-cert winner, nor is it the underdog of the race. If you enjoy an inoffensive light-hearted farce then Dry Rot is probably something of an each-way bet.

Dry Rot runs until Saturday 30 June 2012.



  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 6 years ago
    Even if this production was slightly off-form, it has been great to read another of your reviews, Steve. Sounds like the cast carried this to a win by a nose?
  • Steve Burbridge
    by Steve Burbridge 6 years ago
    Overall, it was an inoffensive night out and, yes, the cast worked their socks off. Thanks for your kind comments!
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