It is hard to imagine that Fawlty Towers first graced television screens forty-six years ago since Basil, Sybil, and Manuel appear to be everlasting. When you consider Interactive Theatre International’s Faulty Towers the Dining Experience returns to the Adelaide Fringe Festival for its fourteenth year, this fact makes sense.
The National Wine Centre of Australia hosted the Faulty Towers restaurant on Saturday, 20 February 2021. From the second we walked through the doors, we entered a time warp to 1975, and the show immediately commenced. We became not only the audience but diners and extras also. Sybil Fawlty (Monique Lewis-Reynolds), in full 70’s garb, including an impressive up-do at least half a metre high, greeted us and directed us to our seats across seven tables of ten. Meanwhile, Basil (Jack Newell) and Manuel (Nicholas Richard) floated through the room, preparing it for service and mingled with diners.
The original television scripts written by John Cleese and Connie Booth were ignored in this production. In fact, script use was minimal as the bulk of the show focussed on improvisation. This is where Faulty Towers the Dining Experience shined. Basil, Sybil, and Manuel intermingled with and served diners throughout the two-hour experience ensuring peak levels of humour and awkwardness were attained. It was a completely immersive experience with every diner sharing interactions with one or more of the actors with hilarious results. Nobody was left out, especially twenty-something man bun on my table whom Sybil took a particular shine to all night, much to his dismay.
As the night continued and we progressed through our outstanding three-course meal thanks to the National Wine Centre of Australia, the service descended into unadulterated pandemonium and merriment. The final scripted Act before dessert was served was nothing short of chaotically inappropriate comical bedlam.
With equal parts physical and verbal comedy, characterisations were on point with phrases mimicked with pinpoint accuracy and body language freakishly precise. From Basil’s clenched fists at his side to Manuel’s slight hunch, the actor’s dedication to capturing their characters’ idiosyncrasies enhanced the overall atmosphere. Their ability to call back improvisations hours after they initially occurred was a testament to their professionalism and served to create an exceptional performance.
Faulty Towers the Dining Experience is the laugh-a-minute must-see experience of the 2021 Adelaide Fringe. But heads up, if you get the unusually full bowl of soup, do not, I repeat, DO NOT eat it. You’ll thank me later.
Fringe Review By Anita Kertes
For show info and tickets for Faulty Towers The Dining Experience head to FringeTix.