The Faulty Towers Dining Experience boasts that they have recently served their one millionth customer worldwide, and with an experience this hilarious, engaging and insulting, it’s not hard to see how the cult brand has become so popular.
In terms of writing and delivery of pre-written material, this is unequivocally a 5* show
The show starts unassumingly in the swanky hotel foyer with Basil, Manuel and Sybil performing an original scene, with writing quality and performances befitting of Cleese and the legendary show itself. The performers set the tone for the glorious escapades to follow, with clever word puns leading to Manuel performing a range of expertly delivered slapstick gags. Sybil comes to bully Basil as only Sybil knows how, complete with pitch perfect cackles indistinguishable from Prunella Scales', and Basil efficiently seats every guest by name, leaving no customer un-insulted.
As the action moves to the dining room, Jack Baldwin’s Basil continues belittling the diners and his colleagues with meticulously rehearsed Cleesean mannerisms and inflection that are quite remarkable at times. Karina Garnett’s Sybil is also an incredibly accurate take on the role and the Faulties have faultless chemistry on stage (restaurant floor) together. I imagine most of the audience would highlight Oliver Harrison’s 'Manuel' as their favourite character. As Head Waiter, he was the most exposed of the three and picked up the most laughs. He was a strong caricature of a Manuel-like Spanish waiter and he’s certainly a master of comic timing and delivery, but if he aimed to emulate Andrew Sachs then he didn’t quite capture the nuances of the expressions and intonation like his cast mates. Whether this is a pro, con, or irrelevance is down to individual preference.
In terms of writing and delivery of pre-written material, this is unequivocally a 5* show. Where it lost a little momentum is in the ad libbing department. The spontaneous nature of the show being what it is, there is ample opportunity for off-the-cuff jokes and references to the show. While the actors sit down for intimate chats at the tables and certainly stay in character and get laughs from their unplanned interactions, they also lack the rapier wit of well-honed improvisers and generated a few too many generic and uninspired responses to audience comments.
The food is perfectly adequate - the chicken and desert were tasty but the tomato soup tasted similar to heated Tesco Value tinned tomato - don’t let that put you off going though.
The show is everything you’d hope for: a healthy balance of homage to the series and new material that stands up perfectly well alongside the classic gags. If you’re a fan, (and, let’s face it, who isn’t?) then this will meet your high expectations. If you’re new to the series, a) where have you been the past 40 years? and b) don’t let that put you off - the material is hysterical and stands alone without context. Here’s to another million customers!