Manuel is looking confused. Already. Meester Fawlty has asked him to collect the glasses. "Si," he says as he marches off and denudes all the dinner guests of their spectacles. It's started, and we're not even in the dining room yet: we're still in the spacious bar of the Thistle Hotel.
You go for the Fawltyness and of that there was an abundance and yes, silly walks were mercifully included in the price.
There's Sybil in her fright wig and tweed suit, Manuel tripping over his own feet, and Fawlty, ah Fawlty, being well, faulty. It's a little difficult to get over the fact that they're not the real Scales, Sachs and Cleese – the slightly different faces, the not-quite-perfect impressions – but about ten minutes in and you don't even notice it. They interact with the guests and each other with a polish that puts you (almost) at ease.
Manuel is the main culprit in the mess stakes (and this is a messy experience so don't wear your best), while Fawlty hits and bashes him into walls with gay abandon and a healthy disregard for health and safety. H&S will be on your mind all through this, I guarantee, as you wonder how they can get away with what they're getting away with. Bread rolls go flying, tables are clambered onto and fallen off of and windows are ran at pell mell.
At one point, one of the women at my table shrieks and actually jumps on her chair. Another man is left outside the locked dining room door ("That's how you get rid of the riff raff"), banging to be let back in again. It's chaotic, but very ordered chaos as there is a structure to the show. In between courses we get the set pieces – an amalgam of all the funniest, most famous bits of the sitcom – but while we're eating it's difficult to start a conversation without one of the trio butting in, Sybil making small talk, Manuel trying to get a napkin on your lap, or Fawlty simply being ingratiatingly rude.
This is a very practiced show with very skilled performers who I really couldn't fault, but fault the food I most certainly could. Being a vegetarian I'm used to being served substandard food (especially in hotels) so wasn't too unhappy, but my neighbour did whisper that perhaps they were taking the 1970s theme a little too far by theming the menu. Tomato soup (plus false teeth for the lucky few), a vol-au-vent case piled with barely grilled veg and smothered in tomato sauce, and a bog standard chocolate flan let this experience down. And you don't get even one free drink for your quite expensive ticket. An otherwise five star event was brought down to four purely on the food front which is a shame.
That said, you don't really go for the food, do you. You go for the Fawltyness and of that there was an abundance and yes, silly walks were mercifully included in the price.