The Fawlty Towers Live Themed Dinner Show is one of two similar events happening at this year's Edinburgh Fringe; both themed dinners based on the legendary iconic 1970s sitcom. The event at the Calton Hotel, however, has been fully endorsed by John Cleese and Connie Booth, writers of the original series, which means they are able to produce a show which identically echoes the characters and style of the original show we all know and love. And they’ve replicated the show spectacularly, combining the four key characters of the original show into a live cabaret where they also serve a three course dinner.
Each of the characters have a naturally comedic connection with the audience
The atmosphere drips with nostalgia as we enter the dining room, ushered to our table by Manuel. The UK’s most loved characters spring to life as they prepare for dinner service, lots of little nods to the original scripts happening around the room. Polly searches for Basil, as the kitchen has gone on fire, and then the chef is not only drunk, but engaging in sexual harassment of Manuel. These call for some extremely funny moments of immersive cabaret, with plot twist after original plot twist intertwining and playing out before our eyes. "Don’t Mention The War!" and various other iconic phrases play out in full as we enjoy a beautiful menu of top class cuisine.
David Boyle excels as Manuel, the long suffering, disorganised and permanently confused waiter. He brings out too many starters; throws a basket of bread rolls at the audience; and many other comedy moments which are a very fitting tribute to the memory of the late Andrew Sachs who was the original Manuel. Jonathan Hansler shines as Basil, the oft maniacal hotel proprietor whose antics inevitably end up in a farce. The interplay between Hanslwer and Boyle is fantastic, as Manuel’s training involves being chased under diner’s tables and kicked out the other side, on more than one occasion - just like the original! Hansler has written the script, endorsed by the Cleese, and one gets the impression Cleese would be very proud of this accolade to his early creation.
Jess-Luisa Flynn inhabits Cybil beautifully, the wine swilling wife of Basil constantly on a mission to catch him out for potential philandering. And Erin Leighton personifies Polly with just the right intonations, as she scours the audience for someone to buy her artworks, when she’s not desperately trying to create order where none exists.
The highlight of this performance is the audience interaction. Each of the characters have a naturally comedic connection with the audience, interrupting conversations to get in on the gossip of the diners. We experience hilarious ad libs which personify the original characters, and the balance of this is struck perfectly. Diners have time to enjoy the excellent fine dining available, whilst also watching the chaos unfold in front of us. A diner at my table was jovially nicknamed ‘The Major’ by the cast, which added so much to the occasion for him, and there were many examples of little touches by the cast to fully immerse the audience in the production.
Tickets to this event may be at the upper end of what you’d pay for a festival ticket. However when you take into account the exceptional standard of fine dining you receive, as well as the live cabaret involved, it’s fantastic value for money. There’s still some time to take advantage of this experience, so book up before the Fringe is over!