Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience (Birmingham)
A dining experience in Birmingham Rep's new banqueting suite that Jonathan Wright finds imaginative and hilarious.
Classic TV comedies have provided theatre companies with lots of material over the last few years, with many shows getting a reincarnation on the stage, however I doubt any are as imaginative or hilarious as Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience (based on Fawlty Towers), which is being performed this week in Birmingham Rep's brand new banqueting suite.
The action all starts as it means to go on before the show even begins with Manuel gathering glasses (off people's faces) before the audience (or diners in this case) go through to the dining area. After Manuel is berated by Basil for the first of many times, everyone is called by name to meet him and to be given their table number. The cast are quick witted throughout, always giving a one liner to even the smallest of comments. Constant misunderstandings from Manuel cause carnage in the dining area, with bread rolls flying, garnish missing bowls and tables being used as makeshift stages - all while the diners enjoy a three course meal.
The other diners at my table were all massive fans of the original series and they were full of praise for the performers, commenting often on how good their mannerisms were. All three actors portraying Basil, Manuel and Sybil never left character even when just simply walking around the space and were respectful to the original performances from John Cleese, Andrew Sachs and Prunella Scales. Special mention must go to the actress playing Sybil, who never slips from her character, and whether it be singing to guests or checking her hair and makeup, she never loses the voice and characteristics made famous by Scales. Lots of aspects from the TV series are incorporated, for instance Manuel having a pet ‘hamster', and also a number of original ideas all performed in the style of the series. They all fit seamlessly and result in much hilarity.
As the name of the production suggests, this is more than just a piece of dinner theatre; this is truly an experience. One guest at the table I was sat at stated several times that this was one of the funniest experiences of her life. It may sound like an exaggeration, but for fans of Fawlty Towers, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience brings the beloved show to life, and even for those not so familiar to the source it is still a fantastic evening.
- Jonathan Wright