A night of rollicking laughs, good food, and a humorous trip down memory lane brings the 1970s comedy sensation set in a Torquay hotel back to life in a loving tribute show, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. You will see all the public relations faux pas in the flesh. As you also dine during the show, it’s doubly good- you feel you are actually guests at their seaside hotel, or extras on one of the rare 12 episode shoots.
We spent a night inside Little Collins’ Stamford Plaza Hotel. With 100+ seated on spacious circular tables, your enthusiasms bounce off the laughter of your neighbours, many of whom viewed the series in its original era and know all the episodic cues. Think hidden rat, hair in the soup, the drunken chef, clandestine betting, and how it’s all [Basil’s] fault. Kitsch 1960s muzak fills the pre-show space.
This trio of A-grade performers play for all the laughs, loving every minute of their scripted clowning and amp it up for full effect. They use their voices, body, great sense of comic timing, and clever improv skills to make you feel you truly are resident at Fawlty Towers.
This gang specialise in scripted banter with lots of improvisation thrown in- at the audience’s expense. All are treated equally and peppered with mild public shaming. Hyper Basil Fawlty throws nervous insults as easily as he does bread rolls. His jibes about audience member’s fashion sense, age, and table manners are hilarious and start as soon as the show does. Knives, forks, bread baskets and napkins get a good workout as comic props.
The lead cast of three do not disappoint in the renditions they serve up. The three characters patrol the space, mixing, mingling, weaving between tables, clearing plates, or inquiring on dietary preferences. Amidst the organised chaos, individuals are plucked from the audience, pushed aside, humiliated and catcalled and it’s all part of the Faulty dining experience.
The attention-grabbing Luke McGibney dominates with all the mannerisms, ticks and facial quirks of Basil and strong vocal delivery. In his woollen weave jacket, corduroy trousers, and brogues, he’s the gentlemanly country type incapable of executing simple tasks. He works up a sweat as he bounds about athletically and balletically, in his manoeuvring, twisting and crawling to escape Sybil’s vitriol, dropping plates rudely down in service, or in his famous Nazi salute march. He’s a very naughty boy which McGibney delightedly hams up.
Monique Lewis Reynolds as Sybil is the steady foil to her husband who she catches out, corners, and publicly shames as readily as smoothing her hair. Some of the funniest moments are seeing the two of them collide. Late in the piece you get to see how stunning her vocal chords are when the group celebrate birthdays. Small, by comparison, Anthony Sottile as Spanish Manuel shies from Basil, his boss, hiding beneath a napkin and misinterpreting all his employer’s instructions due to his limited grasp of the English language. He plays up the size quotient with mime, gesture and physical comedy, and is the quiet fall guy for all his employer’s abuse. Some of this content is not out of date. There’s sexual innuendo and punning on private parts.
Jollity is certainly on the menu and few do pantomime brilliance better than the Brits. This tribute show from Interactive Theatre International has companies presenting all over the world as a highly successful enterprise. This show will tour all over Australia from here. 70% is improvised, so no two performances are ever the same. Much like quality theatre restaurants, the tight script and energised performance adds to the spice of the food and enlivens a convivial night of comedy. Our meal (green pea soup, chicken breast with vegetables, vegetarian options, followed by pavlova) is tastily fresh and there is a readily accessible pop up bar and helpful wait staff. It’s a very comfortable setting in which to laugh along with the crowd and witness public humiliation – in the marital zone, the workplace, and hospitality.
It’s all in good fun and terrifically in the spirit of Cleese and Booth’s (then married) wondrous comic creations, who, no matter how hard they strive, always manage to see their work fall apart before the paying public. They are the antithesis of ‘good hosts’. By contrast, this professional and assured company take delight in placing ordinary people into this hilarity. You will love every minute- and bite. This is comedy that satisfies on every level.
Sarah Wallace is a dance-trained Theatre Specialist with a flair for the bold, and non-traditional performance platforms. On the street, or in the box seat, she looks for quality works that push the envelope.
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience shows 17- 22 April, Dinner 6:30pm Tuesday – Sunday, Lunch 12:30 Saturday & Sunday (120 mins) at Stamford Plaza Melbourne. Book tickets here. The venue is accessible and suitable for all ages.
Keep an eye on their website as the show makes its way round Australia and the world.
Donate to the show’s chosen charity, The Clown Doctors
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Hatching Communications.
Image credit: MICF.