Monday, 7 October 2013

The Hilarious Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

Everyone knows and loves Fawlty Towers, the BBC TV show that first aired in 1975 and was written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth.

The TV show was set in the fictional Fawlty Towers Hotel in the seaside town of Torquay. The main characters were Hotel owner Basil Fawlty (played by John Cleese), his wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) and Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs). Only 12 episodes of the show were made - 6 for the first series made in 1975 and 6 for the second series made in 1979. Fawlty Towers is still being shown as repeats on TV in many countries around the world even today due to its immense popularity.

The Faulty Towers Dining Experience, produced by Interactive Theatre International based in Brisbane, had humble origins 15 years ago in New Zealand. It has now grown to 8 performing troupes that present the show around the world. Each show is unique, as each one is only a third scripted. The bulk of is improvised comedy which prompts all the hilarity that reminds us of the hotel based TV show.

My wife and I were fortunate to see Faulty Towers The Dining Experience at the Sydney opera House on the weekend. I was a bit apprehensive about going to see it. I was thinking that nothing could even come anywhere near the brilliance of the TV show. How wrong I was. The show was hilariously entertaining. The iconic setting of the Sydney Opera House was an inspired choice of location. The outstanding performance of each of the three actors, the delicious meal and superb setting combined together to make a most enjoyable afternoon of laughter and merriment.

Basil, played by Paul O'Neill, is a snobbish and miserly person who seems to attract mayhem in all the scheming he does. Paul is a brilliant double of John Cleese. He must have watched replay after replay of Fawlty Towers to get John's mannerisms so correct, including his silly walk, hand movements and facial expressions.

Basil is terrified of Sybil, played by Karen Hamilton, who is is energetic and petite. Karen is an exact replica of Sybil. She has her squealing out " !" down pat. Her snorting laughter is just the same as Sybil's on TV.

Manuel, played by Andy Foreman, is a well-meaning but disorganized and confused Spaniard from Barcelona with a poor grasp of English. Much of the humour comes from Manuel taking the English meaning of words literally. When he is told to "wait on the table", that is what he does - he stands on one of the dinner tables and waits.

Two of the three characters (Andy Foreman & Karen Hamilton) actually come from Australia, but they have perfect Spanish and English accents and mannerisms. All three have toured internationally with the show and are great comic impersonators.

The Faulty Towers Dining Experience starts in the lobby as the dinner guests arrive. Basil, Sybil and Manuel interact with the guests, then call out the guest list to be seated. This is a hilarious introduction to the rest of the show.

The delicious 3-course meal is inspired from popular dishes of the 70's - an entree of potato and leek soup followed by chicken cordon bleu then a dessert of bombe Alaska.

There is no stage - the performance takes place around the seated dining guests in a restaurant. The main segments of the show take place between courses. The horse race betting incident and the search for the misplaced rat are hilarious. The seated diners take on the role of the diners of the Hotel restaurant, so the audience is actually involved with Basil, Sybil and Manuel in their antics. While people are eating each course the three key actors wander around the guests and provide much impromptu banter. The amazing thing is that they keep in character the whole time.

The audience consisted of many individuals and couples, and included a group of people celebrating a birthday. From the laughter that was coming from each of the tables it was obvious that all were enjoying themselves and appreciating the Faulty Towers Dining Experience.

Sadly, the show has now come to an end in the Sydney Opera House. It was only a short season of one week of sold out shows. Due to its resounding success the producers hope to bring back the Faulty Towers Dining Experience to the Sydney Opera House in 2014 for a longer season. Keep your eyes out for the publicity promoting its return next year - and book your seats quickly before they sell out. Sign up for the newsletter so you can hear about it the minute they announce the dates.

The Faulty Towers Dining Experience is currently touring various towns and cities in Australia throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014. To find out about the Australian performance locations, dates and ticket prices just go the website and then click on the month or state that you are interested in. Public performances will be held:
  • November - Queenscliffe, Fitzroy, Horsham, Warragul, Mt Waverley (Vic), Brisbane, Ipswich (Qld) Canberra (ACT)
  • December - Kincumber, Newcastle, Sydney Wollongong (NSW) Ipswich, Redland Bay (Qld) Mt Evelyn, Bendigo, Queenscliffe, Lancefield (Vic)
  • January - Queenscliffe, Lancefield (Vic)
  • February - Pittsworth, Seaforth (Qld)
  • March - Queenscliffe (Vic) Murray Bridge, Tanunda (SA) Stawell (Vic)
  • May - Queenscliffe, Kalorama (Vic)
  • June - Carindale (Qld) Queenscliffe, Lancefield (Vic)

Keep an eye for further additions additions to these public performances by checking the website regularly. 

If you are traveling overseas check to see if you are fortunate enough for the show to be presented where you are going to. For example, the Faulty Towers Dining Experience will be presented in the NH Hotel Groningen in the Netherlands from 18-23 February 2014, as well as in Belgium and Iceland. They will be in various cities in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014, including appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 31 July - 26 August 2014. If you are going to London, you can see the show in London’s West End, as it has had a full-time residency since October 2012 at the Charing Cross Hotel.

For full details of upcoming Faulty Towers Dining Experience shows go to the website, click on the 'tickets' orange button, then on the flags of the various countries on the next page.

To watch some fun videos of the characters from the show, go to the 'tickets' page of the website and click on the word 'film'.

For all those people who love the Fawlty Towers on TV, you will love the Faulty Towers Dining Experience as we did. Even if you are one of the rare people not familiar with the TV show, go along and experience the Faulty Towers Dining Experience for yourself - you too will fall in love with Basil, Sybil and Manuel.

Further Information

Interactive Theatre International (Australia office)
Imagination Workshop Pty Ltd
PO Box 72, Holland Park West, QLD 4121
Phone: (+61) 07 3397 4703 or toll free 1300 308 193
Fax: (+61) 07 3844 8014

Interactive Theatre International (UK office)
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience Ltd
1 Manor Farm Cottages, Church Street
Appleford-on-Thames OX14 4PA
Phone: 0845 1544 145

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