Faulty Towers the Dining Experience

Although it took some time for the praise to surface, Fawlty Towers is now recognized as one of the most acclaimed British sitcoms of all time. Celebrated for its intricate plot lines, covert social commentary and raucous farcicality, the show makes regular appearances on those Channel 4 countdowns with which we are all familiar.

The premise is simple: you have a three-course dinner served by imitators of Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil and their, umm, ‘linguistically unassimilated’ Spanish waiter Manuel, who collectively attempt to recreate the calamitous atmosphere of the programme.

How nice it is then, how nice indeed, that Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience [sic] should come along and – literally? – bring the series to life. The premise is simple: you have a three-course dinner served by imitators of Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil and their, umm, ‘linguistically unassimilated’ Spanish waiter Manuel, who collectively attempt to recreate the calamitous atmosphere of the programme.

The main problem with the performance was that it took the basest elements of Fawlty Towers at the expense of its (admittedly subtle) sophistication; it appropriated all of the slapstick but none of the complexity. The actors rehashed countless jokes from the show without threading them together into any coherent narrative, and what we were left with was an almost random assortment of wordplay that relied too heavily on Manuel’s poor English language skills.

The food, meanwhile, was bad enough to give Jay Rayner an aneurism. For our starter, we had tomato soup served with basil (LOL), which – although tasty – was remarkably similar to the tinned variety. The main course was effectively chicken and vegetables (with a white sauce that was bland to the point of anonymity) and the dessert a chocolate tart with a base so dry that it posed a choking hazard. (Disclaimer: nobody choked on the chocolate tart).

It could of course be argued that the poor quality of the food was part of the point; after all, the cuisine at the Towers wasn’t exactly haute. But even if, in some convoluted way, you vindicate under-seasoned chicken through its thematic aptness (isn’t Basil himself a kind of under-seasoned chicken?), you’re still left with unenjoyable food that makes the £43 price tag seem unbearably steep.

In defence of the evening, the actors were good impressionists and did occasionally manage to put a smile on my precociously embittered face. However, the entertainment too often felt like an imposition, and left me feeling like a guest at Fawlty Towers in all the wrong ways.

Reviews by Joshua Feldman

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Basil, Sybil and Manuel return! This is the same show that tours the world, taking in major festivals, a West End residency, Sydney Opera House – and even the Royal Albert Hall. Totally immersive and highly improvised, this is site-specific comedy theatre at its best. Expect all the best gags and shambolic service in "a rip-roaringly hilarious night" (This Is London).

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