Dry Rot

            The Loft Theatre in Leamington Spa reminds me of my own local theatre back home where I grew up in Kent. Everything from the red velvet curtains, the squeaking seats and the need for an overture before each act put me in the mood. This theatre experience was going to take me back to my grass roots ambitions of amateur theatre and it did not fall short of my expectations.

            ‘Dry Rot’ is a comedy set in rural 1940’s England. The Wagstaff family’s newly owned country house-cum-bed and breakfast is beset by an unlikely rabble of characters led by Alfred Tubbe. Tubbe plans to win a bet on a horse race taking place at the near by racetrack by switching the tipped winner for one he has brought in especially to fail, and needs to do it all before the Wagstaffs find out.

            The play itself is very hit and miss. The writing was inconsistent and heavily padded with dialogue about getting someone a cup of tea, even at 3am. The 10 strong cast are all given side plots to main horse racing story but most of them never seem to be resolved. Daughter Susan Wagstaff and secretary John Danby never fulfil their love plot while the eventually presence of Police Sergeant Fire is utterly superfluous and leads only to an unnecessary, although extremely well timed, chase scene involving most of the cast and a shot gun.

            In spite of the play being ropey to say the least, the cast did a good job to flog this dead horse of script. Bill Davis as Colonel Wagstaff was an enjoyable performance with good comic timing and played the enjoyable force of confused reason that often drove the play along. Another delightful performance came from Michelle Bezant whose Vicky Pollard inspired maid Beth interacted well with other cast members, who sometimes actually forgot about reacting altogether. Her undeveloped romance with Tubbe’s sidekick Fred Phipps was one side plot warmly welcomed but unfortunately stopped short.

            The best-planned part of the whole evening was the set. A well-constructed and sturdy multi-layered structure put the effort of minimalist sets to shame, revealing them to be no more than someone doing a lazy days work. Revealing was the buzz word of the play, with the pick of the frantic and high comedy scenes coming from mishaps with the secret passageway discovered in the front room by Tubbes and Phipps. The wonderful sliding door mechanism in a bookcase made me feel as if I had walked into a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Only far sillier. 

            The performance was polished and heavily thought through, but it had only moments of glory. The rest of the play was subdued under the need for tea and extraneous plots. This performance could have gone under the directorial scissors a little more. Nevertheless, ‘Dry Rot’ provided a heart-warming return to memories of my youth and I walked out smiling. Job done.   

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