By Lucinda Naughton
Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is a very successful tribute to the BBC television series Fawlty Towers, created and written by John Cleese and Bonnie Booth. Presented by Interactive Theatre International, Faulty Towers is a two-hour, ridiculously funny, interactive show that includes a three-course meal with drinks available for purchase.
Beginning in Brisbane in 1997, Faulty Towers has become an internationally acclaimed show, performed around the world in thirty-nine countries thus far, by over thirty actors based in Australia and the UK. The show demonstrates quick improvisation and a completely original theatrical script and original format. The high energy and interactive nature is suitable for all ages and occasions – enjoyable for kids and parents alike, while also being a great date (though be wary that you may be asked to propose!).
The cast effortlessly pulls off the difficult interactive, dining type of theatre. As someone who grew up watching Fawlty Towers, I have many fond memories of the incredible script and dynamic cast. I was very happy that Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is such a successful tribute, displaying all the favourite character traits and interactions between Basil Faulty (played by English Rob Langston, the world-wide Basil favourite), Sybil Faulty (played by Australian Rebecca Fortuna), and Manuel (played by Australian Anthony Sottile). The three form an outstanding trio that continuously deliver the chaos and confusion we all want to see.
The performance begins with the audience (or guests) milling around before Langston appears as Basil with astounding likeness in his physicality, voice, and dress (a brown suit of course), to rudely gather everyone into the first room. His first action is to familiarly call for Manuel. Sottile enters as Manuel in his smart waiter’s attire and Basil barks orders, while Manuel follows them incorrectly (with some peanut inuendo). Fortuna’s entrance as Sybil, with her gigantic hair, is necessary to sort the mess Basil and Manuel already find themselves in, reminding Basil to call everyone’s name and corresponding table numbers out. Basil gives personal attention to the audience by individually calling out your name, barking your table number, and usually making some rude joke (expect some attention if you have a German name), while Manuel leads you into the dining room, where large round tables are set for you to share with other audience members. The opening skit is well-timed and welcoming. I would certainly say be prepared for plenty of hilarious audience interaction and participation (leave your pride behind).
The three, with the help of the Stamford Plaza waitstaff, serve the audience dinner at their tables, providing much entertainment and individual attention in between. I would say the only part about the experience that fell short was the actual food itself as it was a pretty standard meal with small proportions – so just remember you’re paying for the entertainment!
The cast are fantastic. Langston’s performance of Basil is uncanny; he is rude, quick-witted, and smart. The physicality he brings to the role is so very John Cleese from his walk to the way he keeps his lips tight when directing Manuel or muttering about Sybil (“Don’t trip on your way out, dear”); he even expels air in the same way. Sottile as Manuel easily entertains the audience with his cheek and charm. For the first service, he misunderstands Basil’s instructions and instead of serving the bread rolls, he throws them at the tables. He’s silly, fun, energetic; and he sings, swings his behind in very strange areas, and has a giggle that will make you laugh; the perfect Manuel.
Fortuna’s performance of Sybil will grow on you as it becomes clear how vital she is – she is the glue that holds the three together. Fortuna’s presence is impressively strong and will go to hilarious measures to get back at Basil (even shoving a fish statue somewhere particularly uncomfortable). Sybil’s hair and makeup and dress are flawless. Fortuna’s vocal impression of Sybil is unbelievably funny and spot on; one of the highlights in the show for me is her singing happy birthday to all the guests who’s birthday it is (which I found very inclusive as she impressively remembers everyone’s names), before continuing to sing a love song to a couple celebrating their anniversary. As I mentioned earlier – be warned, she’s so good she’ll convince you to propose!
I really appreciated how the cast stay in character the entire time, even outside the dining room, or when speaking to the Stamford Plaza waitstaff; it added so much to the entertainment. This as well as the individual interactions the cast has with every table created a strong sense of familiarity and a nostalgic loving tribute to Fawlty Towers. If you want a workout for your cheeks, I definitely recommend attending!
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.