Anyone familiar with the iconic British TV show might be rightly hesitant to dine in the Fawlty Towers restaurant. Just the simple task of serving bread rolls might be too difficult for this trio; as we found out, it will incur Basil’s wrath, confuse Manuel, and cause an eruption of histrionics from Sybil.
But for the past 25 years, audiences from all over the world have been laughing and enjoying this very unique event, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. Back for its 15th year at the Adelaide Fringe, the show serves up quick-witted improvisation, mandatory audience participation, and impulsive laughter. This year, it’s hosted by The Terrace Hotel in the south of Adelaide’s CBD, where a 1970s-inspired three-course dinner is served as accompaniment to a comedic script that feels completely original, crafted just for the audience on the night. This is where the true genius of this concept comes into play; all three actors interact seamlessly with guests, staying in character while serving them food, and involving everyone in the drama and hilarity.
On opening night, the constant witty repartee with each of us took audience participation to another level as we were encouraged to immerse ourselves in the experience as much or as little as we liked. The belligerent slapstick between Basil and Manuel had guests embracing their inner “faulty-ness” by imitating a bull, being chased around the table by Manuel’s pet “hamster”, or even accepting their name was Dennis for the evening. The audience was encouraged to be the stars of the evening by the show’s actors themselves – sharing the limelight and heckling were embraced.
Highlights included the confusion that ensued as Basil attempted to conduct a fire drill and Sybil’s perfectly charming and flirtatious hosting, beguiling guests with her over-the-top laugh. My favourite part of the show was when Sybil sang happy birthday and anniversary to four people all at the same time – that woman can really sing! And for me, Manuel took the cake for overall best performer of the night, but Basil’s goose steps and Sybil’s laugh made them close contenders.
Some of our table members were quite hungry by the time the main course arrived and some of the dialogue at the start felt a little stilted between the actors. But I believe this can be attributed to opening night teething issues and as the Fringe season progresses, these will be ironed out.
All in all, with cheeks hurting from laughing, a belly full of good food, and a mayhem-infused yet inviting environment, not even Basil’s ill-tempered rudeness could detract from the fun. For those passers-by on South Terrace who wondered at a Spanish waiter being chased around the front of the hotel by a lanky angry man, I hope your interest was piqued and you too, book in for this amazingly immersive entertainment.
Fringe Review Kim Burley