It’s funny how an Australian theatre company, Interactive Theatre International, has adopted a British institution and national treasure like Fawlty Towers with such fervour. Conceivedand debuted in 1997, the Faulty Towers the Dining Experience was born. It makes you wonder how many hours the four performers have watched the DVD of the TV series – hundreds would be my guess, because their performance, to use a well-worn phrase, is just spot on.
This show first came to Edinburgh Fringe in 2008 and has been selling–out right from the start, and this year is no different.
The weather is dreich and my along with my dining companion, we huddle together under the archway next to B’est Restaurant where the action takes place. The show starts outside with Basil strutting around eyeing up the diners in for lunch. He is convinced that at least two of his guests are from Michelin, to asses the restaurant for a possible star. Then the hapless Manuel appears and we wait in anticipation for the frustrations, angst and ill- humour from Basil; it’s not a long wait.
The miscommunication between owner and waiter has the group chuckling that then develops into laughter as Manuel circulates with the nuts, but in typical Manuel fashion, taking Basil’s words literally. Sybil appears, giving her husband some grief about the seating plan. Names are called out (woe and behold anyone who doesn’t answer correctly), tables are assigned and we head off into the restaurant.
Ours is the smallest with only four of us, the other tables have between six and twenty strangers sharing, everyone waiting in anticipation. I won’t go into detail regarding the show as I don’t want to spoil the fun, but the most iconic episodes are reflected in the performance. There is some audience participation and everyone is fair game, but this just adds to the comedy.
The three actors work hard during the two hours and their performances are brilliant. Alison Pollard-Mansergh is astounding as Sybil; from that grating, nasal laugh to Sybil’s walk and the constant touching of her hair. She has got that distaining stare that would freeze hell perfect. Anthony Sottile takes to the stage in his debut appearance as Manuel in fine style; the accent isn’t quite there yet, but this doesn’t detract from his performance as the put upon waiter from Barcelona that everyone loves.
However, the highest accolade has to go to Kevin Whittle, who has turned Basil Fawlty into an art form. He has every nuance, mannerism, and look perfected, even his voice is well honed, except sometimes his pitch is a little too high.
This is a masterpiece of comic timing that is utterly compelling and a wonderfully crafted piece of comedy theatre.
The food takes second place (vegetable soup, bacon wrapped chicken and risotto followed by tiramisu cake) and in my opinion is a prop, albeit, a major prop. And as one diner said, “It’s the kind of food one would expect to be served at Fawlty Towers.”
This is an excellent show that is selling out fast
On until 29th August. 1400 (1615) lunch performances and 2030 (2230) dinner performances.
Grab a ticket whilst you still can.
Also appearing in Edinburgh 16-20 September.