It feels as though the restaurant for the Faulty Towers 'interactive' dining experience has shoehorned in more punters for the 2011 show, which makes seating the customers and serving the meal painfully slow. And a visit to the toilet requires either a diplomatic negotiation with the neighbours or a Gerard Depardieu moment.
The trio of actors playing Basil, Sybil and Manuel keep up a spirited act in staccato bursts, but the show isn’t genuinely interactive since you can’t engage them in conversation, and the longueurs between the action mean you have to make your own banter with tablemates. Six of ours were from Basingstoke, so we did a lot of Facebooking and tweeting to pass the two-and-a-half hours.
Post-Come Dine With Me, it’s questionable whether the format still works: the routine borrows from many of the episodes of the iconic series Fawlty Towers, but without the manic plots and additional characters. The lookalikes are only momentarily accurate (Sybil is best), and their performances tend to confuse shouting for funny so it quickly wears thin with extended sequences and tired stereotypes.
The experience relies on the audience's memory of it once being funnier and better acted on TV and feels like they’re dining out on past rave reviews. Talking of dining out, the food’s canteen is average: split pea soup with or without Chef’s dentures - what comic brilliance - chicken wrapped in flabby bacon with risotto and a sprig of broccoli, and a recently-defrosted Tiramisu.
Alison Pollard created the original concept, and I suspect it would still work best in a corporate entertainment scenario where you could target some popular victims and plant some topical jokes.
(Review based on a lunchtime show, but it probably goes better in the evenings. Or after a few drinks.)
- Johnny Fox and Paul Ewing