Faulty Towers The Dining Experience
For anyone who has ever loved or been amused by Faulty Towers, you cannot miss this experience! And it is an experience, far over and above just a show.
Faulty Towers is something deep in many people's cultural subconscious. I can't actually remember watching episodes, but the knowledge of those characters lies somewhere in the depths of my head, even though I'm a generation or two behind the TV show's heyday.
This experience can cater for mad-keen fans as well as any novice. Half the fun of being in the 'audience' is watching the faces of other diners while the performers interact with and around us all. It's always funniest when the action happens to the person next to you. Throughout the night I watched some people lap up the attention, while others look bemused and some even look disdainful.
Here, it seems, we need a disclaimer: the humour of this show is farcical and slapstick comedy. This was John Cleese in his element! And this show picks us up by the 60 or so and leads us into the Faulty Towers restaurant. Do not come expecting to sit invisibly in a corner; instead, expect to dine at the real Faulty Towers, and you might almost be prepared.
The beauty of this show is the strength of the actor's characterisation. Not for one moment do you suspect they're not the characters, bringing their restaurant of hilarious horror to tour Melbourne. Interactive Theatre International has been performing this show for 15 years, and started touring internationally in 2008. I was convinced that they must have used the same actors throughout, however they have several actors for each role who rotate through the tours.
Though I thought I'd be disappointed with anyone but John Cleese, I felt that Michael Davoren embodied Basil so wonderfully as to make comparisons unnecessary. He is Basil, for all wonderful intents and purposes of this experience. Those enormously long legs, his portly figure and farcical gusto carried off his notoriously rude and unpleasant character with huge appeal.
Amanda McKay plays Sybil to shrill, horrifying and hilarious perfection. Complete with her tacky (yet impeccable) beehive, donkey-braying laugh and high notes that leave every glass in the room shuddering, she is Sybil reincarnate. Her improvising moments left us almost crying with laughter at a poor unknowing neighbour, whose bald pate became a mirror for a hair-check.
Improvised moments like this create the overall atmosphere while tying together all parts of the performance. Unless you know the individual skits taken right from the TV show, you cannot often tell when the script ends and their improv begins. Every audience member is tended to, numerous times, by each of our three main patrons. You never know what will end up on your table, in your soup or on your lap whenever Manuel walks past, and your chances of turning into a face full of Basil's backside are very high.
The star of the show however can be none other than Manuel, played for Melbourne by Andy Foreman. You just want to pop him in your handbag and take him home! He's too cute! This five foot nothing performer has his innocent Spanish incompetency act down pat. He is so ridiculous yet so very believable that you can't help but adore him. He has the audience in the palm of his little hands... along with quite a few other things.
I could not have enjoyed this evening more. I even sprung being gluten intolerant on our (real) hostess of the Aegean and she took it without battering an eyelid, assuring me they'd pop the gluten free entrée bread in the oven right away. The vegetarian option was also gluten free, and I must say very tasty. And don't be fooled by the looks of the standard main – it's all delicious.
Alongside the company's amazing talents, the strength of the overall experience also rests heavily on the excellent organisation of the Aegean restaurant and their patient (yet slightly terrified) staff. They manoeuvre and interact with Basil and Sybil while managing to actually get food to all the guests (with no help from Manuel).
It is a marvel in itself that they can pull off this diner show without actually breaking or spilling anything. Add to this great food, fantastic company and constant laughter to make the most delightful meal out you'll have all year.
Interactive Theatre International presents
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience
Venue: The Aegean Restaurant | 19 Brunswick St, Fitzroy (Licensed venue. Under 18s must be accompanied by a Parent or Legal Guardian)
Dates: 28 March - 22 April, 2012
Times: Tue-Fri 7pm, Sat 1pm & 7pm, Sun 1pm & 7pm
Duration: 120 minutes
Tickets: Dinner and Show Fri & Sat $95 | Dinner and Show Wed-Thu & Sun $79 | Lunch and Show Fri & Sat $72 | Tightarse Tuesday Dinner and Show $69
Bookings: 1300 308 193 | interactivetheatre.com.au
Part of the 2012 Melbourne International Comedy Festival