On arriving at the Strathmore Hotel, my companion and I are directed to the bar to secure our drinks order for dinner and to wait until Mr Faulty arrives to seat us. I’m immediately grinning at the thought of the iconic incompetent hotel manager’s imminent appearance. I’m not disappointed when Luke McGibney strides behind the bar with all the haughty arrogance that embodies Basil Fawlty (note the spelling difference), the role made famous by John Cleese. He’s quickly joined by Anthony Sottile’s Manuel and Rhian McLean’s Sybil and the chaos soon begins.
It’s utterly marvellous, perfectly paced and an incredible display of slapstick character comedy.
During the very tasty meal, we are participants in the comedy of errors that makes up the show. Original gags blend with homage to make you feel that you really could be in that Torquay hotel with the broken sign – it’s utterly marvellous, perfectly paced and an incredible display of slapstick character comedy.
Taking such a famous and eminently quotable show as Fawlty Towers and creating an affectionate homage for a live audience is a brave undertaking and the success of the endeavour is clear in its ongoing residency in London’s West End and the several touring companies constantly traversing the globe. The team performing for us today are clearly the A-team.
McGibney’s Basil Faulty is such a perfect portrayal of the character precisely because it isn’t just an imitation. This feels like a Basil of today with topical asides and on-point improv all with a seething, barely contained fury under the surface. That fury is mainly directed at Sottile’s Manuel, the language-impaired waiter from Barcelona whose comical misunderstandings of English phrases cause constant hilarity. The late Andrew Sachs became something of a national treasure due to his association with this loveable character and Sottile is well-worthy of taking on the mantle (and the beatings). Rounding out the trio is McLean’s Sybil, a note-perfect performance of the long-suffering, slightly terrifying spouse and co-manager of Basil.
When I got the gig to review Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, I decided to take along a friend who I knew had never seen the classic TV show on which this interactive comedy theatre is based (she’s Danish and young). It was important to me to find out if the gags worked regardless of your familiarity with Basil, Sybil and Manuel. I’m delighted to say that she loved the show and proclaimed it to be hilarious. I don’t disagree.