Don’t mention the war! And they didn’t, but they did lots of other Fawlty memorabilia, such as That Walk, some hamster/rat carry on, business with a fire extinguisher, and Manuel’s famous “I know nussing!” These, and a continuous flow of other very amusing and classic Fawlty Towers inspired episodes, both scripted and ad-libbed, peppered the evening, through a three course meal served by the cast and other cooperative hotel staff.

The action starts over pre-prandials in the bar, and then the audience is herded into the dining room with some scripted organisational chaos, involving distribution of bread, butter, salt and pepper and cutlery, and the scene and the anticipation is set for an unusual dining experience.

Interactive Theatre Australia, the brain child of Alison Pollard-Mansergh, who plays Sybil Faulty excellently, is adding a new dimension to theatre which challenges audience and actors alike. The audience is never sure what is coming next, neither do they know how much they can be part of the performance, yet sometimes have no choice, (e.g. when Manuel places himself rather than your napkin on your lap.)

The actors rose superbly to the challenge they set themselves - to take what comes, remain in character and ad-lib intelligently and humourously, interacting with unpredictable patrons in a way that they can be seen and heard in a dining room of some 80 – 100 people, and weaving their scripted bits into the whole.

Done as well as they did, this makes for a fine dining/theatrical experience for a large number of Fawlty aficionados who would be inclined to be critical if the actors didn’t get it right.  But they did. Daley Donnelly as Manuel is convincingly and disarmingly naive, literal, dumb. Michael Davoren has taken to the role of Basil Faulty with great energy and imitative skill. His repartee was witty, and combined with his studied physical movement and classic interactions with Sybil and Manuel, evoked John Cleese very convincingly.  Alison Pollard-Mansergh strutted authoritatively and equally convincingly through the role of Sybil Faulty, unfaultingly maintaining her character, attending to each diner and shrieking at Basil and Manuel in a way that would have made Prunella Scales proud.

While there is no complex set, lighting or props (a three course meal provides plenty of these!) there is negotiation and cooperation to be achieved with hotel management, who need to accommodate cast in the kitchen, and accept unorthodox dealings with their food, furniture and staff, to stage such an event. All this seems to have been achieved with aplomb.

After a chase around and under tables (Basil chasing Manuel chasing his hamster/rat), business with a betting ticket, and fumbling with a fire extinguisher, the whole escalates into a Fawlty shermozzle, and desert is served in relative calm. 

A most enjoyable evening, and the food wasn’t bad either.

Interactive Theatre Australia presents

Part of the 2009 Adelaide Fringe Festival

Quality Hotel, North Adelaide
March 7 – 22,
Strathmore Hotel, Adelaide
March 6 - 20

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