Fawlty Towers is a British sitcom from the 70s, written by John Cleese after he was inspired by the rude behaviour of a hotelier in Torquay. The show follows Basil Fawlty (Cleese), his wife Sybil and a well-meaning but incompetent Spanish waiter, Manuel, through the day-to-day running of their establishment. Although only twelve episodes were screened, the show became very popular with viewers worldwide; in 1997, ‘The Germans’ ranked 12th in a poll of televisions 100 greatest episodes of all time.
Also in 1997, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience was created in Brisbane. The two-hour tribute show is performed across a three-course meal, where a restaurant becomes the set and spectators become extras.
A part of Fringe World 2012, I attended opening night on Wednesday. Held at Rigby’s Bar and Bistro, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience demonstrated why it is touted as “a masterpiece of comedic timing that is utterly compelling” (Edinburgh Fringe).
Upon arrival, pre-dinner drinks were held in the downstairs dining room. I felt very youthful, as the crowd was almost exclusively over the age of fifty. After thirty minutes, ‘Basil’, ‘Sybil’ and ‘Manuel’ quietly made their entrance and the skits began.
The appearance, mannerisms and accents of the characters were true to the individuals portrayed in the original series. ‘Sybil’ had the hairstyle, conservative skirt suit, generous blue eye shadow and braying laugh down pat. ‘Basil’, sporting a brown suit, comb-over and open distaste for his clientele was also an accurate representation of the original hotelier. My favourite character was Manuel, a tiny dark-haired man in a white tuxedo with a constantly confused expression. His bumbling efforts to follow Basil’s instructions and query of ‘Que?’ had me continually giggling.
I was seated at one of the eleven tables set for ten diners, and noticed Rob Broadfield at the table next to me, looking bemused at the outlandish antics of the actors. Gags and lines from the original episodes started flying fast and furiously, much to the delight of the eager audience. “Put the rolls on the plates” saw Manual doing a somersault over a saucer, “butter” had him butting his forehead against a ladies arm and “wait on the tables” saw him climb atop the centre table, feet positioned in-between wine glasses and soup bowls.
Basils constant (and sometimes violent) berating of bewildered Manuel and Cybils feisty, overbearing ways had been cleverly crafted to pay homage to the original dialogue, while still providing witty retorts to the audience members enthusiastic participation.
Without giving too much of the show away, I can assure readers that scenes from the most popular episodes of the series, including ‘The Germans’ and ‘Basil The Rat’, as well as Basils fondness for a flutter on the horses and the chefs drinking habits all feature in the performance and with the same dry British humour that saw the original Fawlty Towers acquire such acclaim. I left having thoroughly enjoyed myself and of the same opinion as another reviewer who stated “Cleese would be delighted”.
You can enjoy the theatrical comedy that is Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience at the remaining lunch and dinner shows from February 8-18.
By Lisa Morrison.
Photo Courtesy of Fringe World