Keeping tradition of a perfect British farce

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Dry Rot - Grand Theatre, Blackpool

It says something that John Chapman’s “classic British comedy” will be celebrating its 60th anniversary in a couple of years time and can still reduce a certain percentage of its appreciative audience to helpless laughter.

As his Daily Telegraph obituary said in 2001, Chapman was “one of the most skilled, popular and steadily successful exponents of post war West End farce” – and it would be a brave critic to disagree.

His name is up there with Brian Rix and Ray Cooney (with who he later formed a successful writing partnership), the Whitehall Theatre and legendary days of seaside summer repertory – a world populated by posh voices, loveable rogues, dropped trousers and a seemingly endless number of opening and closing doors. A world where a warming cup of tea will solve any problem.

Dry Rot is typical of its genre and clocked up 1475 performances over a three and half year West End run and is included in the National Theatre’s 100 Plays of the 20th Century.

Why? Because its plot of a sinking middle class family running an almost stately guest house and a crew of racing track conmen up to no good, weaves its way perfectly to include stereotypical characters such as a dozy maid, butch policewoman, lovelorn fop and a diminutive French jockey.

To succeed, its timing has to be perfect and the cast of mainly familiar names – including the stage reunion of comedians Norman Pace and Gareth Hale, Liza Goddard, Susan Penhaligon, Neil Stacy and Derren Nesbitt – has the pedigree to just about pull it off.