The international smash-hit, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is returning to Adelaide from 19 February to 7 March at the Adelaide Oval as part of the Adelaide Fringe. Basil’s rude, Manuel’s confused and Sybil’s cracking the whip… all the while dishing up the laughs and a three-course meal. The world’s longest-running and most successful Fawlty Towers tribute, this unforgettable immersive show sees audiences become paying guests at the Faulty Towers hotel, ready for two hours of chaos, comedy and action.
A loving homage to the smash hit BBC TV series written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience uses a supreme blend of top-flight improvisation, audience participation, and a completely original theatrical script to create a night perfect for absolutely anyone ready to laugh. The show has recently undergone a review and will be performed in a new, COVID Safe format to ensure the utmost safety of audiences and the cast. Monique Lewis-Reynolds who plays Sybil answers a few questions about the show for Hi Fi Way.
Did you have to watch much of the original Fawlty Towers to get in the character’s headspace?
Watching all the episodes multiple times was definitely part of the course in preparing for Sybil. It is also fortunate that I grew up in the era where constant re-runs of Fawlty Towers were a Friday night staple in my home and a favourite school holiday past time while visiting with my grandparents. If you were to ask my husband, he would say I’ve had plenty of practice being Sybil for the past 20 years of our married life together.
Is every show a unique experience?
For me they definitely are. Every show has a different audience vibe and demographic and there is always a different character or two to play with. Having a quiet “listening so they don’t miss anything” audience compared to the loud, vocal “got to be involved” group changes the way we interact with the audience and with each other as actors. We’ve had many audience members who’ve come to our shows multiple times, at different venues, and with a different group of friends, comment on how different each experience was and that’s exactly what we want.
Do you have much scope to improvise depending on where the show is going?
With only a third of the show scripted, improvising is the key and it’s really the essence of why this show is so much fun to watch and for us to perform. We all spend quite a bit of time individually roving and interacting with the audience separate to each other so when, as an example, I ask a group what Basil was talking to them about and they can’t help to tell me about something I shouldn’t possibly know, it gives a whole new layer to my relationship with Basil for that show. It really keeps things interesting and fresh for us as performers because we never know what we might have to respond with and what curly questions an audience member will come up with. Obviously each audience wants our characters to be totally believable and a true nod to who they remember from watching the TV shows so all we need to do is stay present to whatever happens in the room.
Does COVID add to the chaos of the Faulty Towers Dining Experience?
It has definitely added another crazy layer into all our performances. Basil finds it very easy to keep people at a distance because he is so dismissive and socially awkward so you will often hear him saying “please don’t touch me” regardless of who it is or if the person is already metres away while Manuel is basically chaos personified, so imagine him with his limited and often misinterpreted English skills, trying to show a customer how to pour their own water or place a serviette on their laps, some nights I find it had not to giggle! And as Sybil I’ve found plenty of new fun ways to flirt with all the attractive gentleman in the room which just creates more chaos and angst for Basil!
How do you control rowdy audience members, and do even get the quiet ones into it?
We actually love the rowdy audience members as much as the quiet ones. We have lots of little tricks up our sleeves to ‘tame the odd beast’ but usually just walking around behind the chatterbox and delivering lines over their head will often be enough to focus their attention again. Sometimes you just have to take a moment ask them what’s so important and that often leads to what we call ‘comedy gold’ because their reaction or comment turns the show on its head and Basil can insult them or Manuel can run off on a tangent. Usually when that happens that audience member is fodder for jokes all night long. With the quiet ones it’s funny how sometimes they are the ones in the room that you unintentionally gravitate towards and they end up having the time of their lives.
How much are you looking forward to returning to the Adelaide Fringe?
I’m super excited as this is actually my first Fringe. Although I’ve been with the company for over four years and performed at both the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and the festivals in Perth previously, I have always been busy doing other shows during Fringe time so it’s been on the bucket list and I can’t wait to get the shows under way. These are our first Faulty shows for 2021 so it’s a great feeling to get back to what I love doing most! Nicholas, who plays Manuel is back for his third run and Jack, who plays Basil is a true blue local Adelaide boy so I’m guessing I’m in good hands.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Catch the Faulty Towers Dining Experience at Exhibition Hall at The National Wine Centre/ The Pavilion at Adelaide Oval Pavilion or Vines Room at The National Wine Centre. Tickets from FringeTix.