The 1970s was arguably dedicated to bad taste, rebellion and change where the cultural fabric of British life changed dramatically.
If the '70s was the decade of stereotypes and clichés, then Fawlty Towers was its televisual manifestation.
As one of the best-loved British sitcoms created in 1975 and 1979, the two series and 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers still stands some 40 years on as a show stocked with clever punny humour – and for good reason. Ingenious writing presented a smart, nimble script furnished with larger–than-life, over-the-top characters capering through a never-ending cluster of ludicrous plights from a hotel set on the English Riveriera.
Fans will know, Fawlty Towers’s campy, madcap antics were exemplified by the pompously boorish Basil Fawlty, his iron-handed wife Sybil and the English language-challenged, eternally-wretched Spanish waiter Manuel.
With Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, Basil, Sybil and Manuel would no longer find themselves lost to time immemorial - or millennials. In 1997, The Faulty Towers Dining Experience – note the name modification, likely and understandably due to trademarking – was spawned in the theatrical backwoods of Brisbane to cavort around the world from Sydney Opera House to The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, London’s West End and Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival – and continues some 21 years later.
On paper, this unique interactive theatre restaurant adventure could extend successfully beyond TV, but how would it work exactly? Would hors d’oeuvres or duck feature on the menu? Would the kippers be out of date? Would the chef, infamous for his penchant for the bottle, manage to serve up dinner? So many questions, to which - I knew nothing. Qué?
Given the likelihood for chaos, pre-drinks from the front room to the ritual of being seated is surprisingly ordered; introducing the cast while announcing the start of the show and easing us into the dining experience. Although the show has been performed in crackerjack theatres across the globe, for this evening, the period architecture and heritage atmosphere of the Castlereagh Boutique Hotel, Sydney lent itself superbly to the occasion.
Cardiff actor/ poet/ singer Stephen Lurvey is a dead ringer for John Cleese in looks, flawlessly capturing the crude clod-hopping essence of Basil Fawlty – goose step included. Anthony Sottile is uncanny in the part once iconically distinguished by Andrew Sachs of Spanish waiter, Manuel – uncanny, until he drops the broken Spanglish to descant quite easily in a most Melbourne-born and bred accent.
Monique Lewis-Reynolds – Sydney actress, classically trained singer and commonplace frequenter of musical stages - took to the carpeted floors of the Cellos Grand Dining Room, royally clad in the signature tight skirt, flouncy blouse and lofty perm; with all the familiar aplomb and imperiousness redolent to that coiffured old sow Sybill. While a part permanently recollective to Prunella Scales, Lewis-Reynolds breathes life into the familiar and commanding Mrs Fawlty.
With wine bottles and cocktails ordered, shaken and poured and the first course under all impressions on its way, the quick wit and repartee of this brash bustling trio is on fine display. Singularly circulating tables to greet each guest personally, their pert verbal jabs are acutely dexterous with all the keenness of a finely-honed spoon.
Right from the get-go, all the while reverently irreverently paying homage to its namesake, the three actors superbly take over; re-enacting illustrious sketches and their timeless quotes, from “Communication Problems” to “The Germans”, “Gourmet Night” and “Basil The Rat”.
Indeed, I admired the cast greatly, so intensely and admirably committed to their roles and the moment as they were; so much so as to extend to personally serving up our entrees, mains and desserts as well – such humility, dedication and genuine talent that goes above and beyond. Across two hours, this uniquely comedic immersive dinner show builds a carefully assembled atmosphere – one complete with a background soundtrack and appropriate sound effects. The mise en scene inspires the audience into reaching the heightened states customarily reserved for the TV show and so, react accordingly; that of being in the most wackiest manner possible.
What is especially evident is no detail is spared, and every thought is applied. It is likewise a pleasure for both fans and the Fawlty-uneducated alike. Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is an infectious adventure, analogous to stepping into the TV set and into the very lobby of Fawlty Towers itself and as preposterous and diverting as the British show is renowned for. It is indeed impossible to not succumb and participate; not doing so would be comparable to being half-witted, upper-class piles of pus.
Some people have religious ecstacy, others have Jones Town. Fawlty Towers fans have Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. And thank goodness for that – just don’t mention the war.
Visit Faulty Towers: The Dining Experence