Why on earth would anyone want to have a Fawlty Towers lunch? The classic 1970s sitcom featured deeply dysfunctional husband and wife hotel managers Basil and Sybil Fawlty, and their hapless Spanish waiter Manuel. Every meal was a disaster, with Basil insulting the guests, Sybil shrieking, Manuel misunderstanding every instruction and incurring Basils wrath.
Interactive Theatre Australia have developed the Faulty Towers dining experience to transport us back to that 1970s era. There is a sense of nervousness and anticipation as the audience wait outside the Best Restaurant in Drummond Street. Instead of filing into the dining room, the characters come out to greet us, and treat us to our first taste of the mayhem that follows. Theres a missing seating plan, Manuel is trying to serve us peanuts, Sybil is nagging both Manuel and Basil, and Basil is eyeballing the guests.
Nigel Bell gives a perfect interpretation of the angst-ridden Basil. He has all the facial expressions, changes in vocal pitch and physical presence of John Cleese. Alison Pollard-Mansergh is wonderful as Sybil, nagging Basil and then chatting to the audience and on the phone. Tony Nixon seems to have become Manuel, and his misinterpretations of instructions are even funnier in real life than they were on screen.
The show covers some familiar themes from the tv show, including Basil betting and Manuels pet. But most of the real laugh out loud moments come from the characters interacting with the audience. For example, as Manuel cant quite reach my corner seat to serve the soup, he pops under the table and reappears at my knees. Basil and Manuels efforts to get wine bottles open in various ways give rise to some great physical comedy, and, amazingly, in the midst of all this we do get our food and wine, mostly all in one piece. With the restaurant setting it is sometimes difficult to see all of the action, but the cast work well to keep things moving around the room.
The show might not work so well if youre not familiar with the original tv series, but if you are, youll love it. Equally, had the cast not been so convincing this experience could have been tedious rather than entertaining. Finding yourself at the sharp end of Basils tounge for having your elbows on the table, being gently patronised by Sybil while Manuel serves a roll by throwing it at you is marvelous fun, and to be highly recommended.