Writer: John Chapman
Director: Ron Aldridge
Reviewer: Lindsay Sykes
When the show begins you could be forgiven for thinking this would be another ‘More tea Vicar-whoops there goes my trousers’ farce. But it is so much more than that. Hilarious from the outset this show is sure to heave you gasping for air while having laugh after laugh.
Written in 1954, Dry Rot is a tale of skulduggery in the racing industry. Colonel Wagstaff (Neil Stacey), his wife Doris (Liza Goddard) and daughter Susan (Evelyn Adams), are the new owners of a hotel very close to a racetrack. Their first ever guests are crooked Bookie Alfred Tubbe (Darren Nesbitt), his valet Fred Phipps (Norman Pace) and Secretary John Danby (Bob Saul). Throw into the mix crook Flash Harry (Gareth Pace) and Beth the hotel maid, played by Susan Penhaligon who hilariously steals every scene she is in, and you have the mad mix.
The plot, in which a crooked bookie and his two accomplices devise a cunning ‘get rich quick’ plan to kidnap the odds-on favourite horse and replace it with their own decrepit nag leads to one ridiculous situation after another. The romance between Danby and Susan is a tad sickly sweet compared to the romance between Beth and Phipps which is just sweet. Secret doors, split-second timing, flawless physical comedy and a hilarious French jockey played by Michael Keane contribute to the funniest scene in the show. But Sergeant Fire (Sarah Whitlock) in a scene where she constantly walks in on the crooked bookies in a state of undress is a close second.
Billed as a classic it’s easy to see why it’s on the National Theatre’s top 100 plays list. Worth the trip to Darlington for Susan Penhaligon alone, you really shouldn’t miss this hilarious farce.
Runs until 30th June