Faulty Towers The Dining ExperiencePhotos – Ron Rutten

It’s ambitious to recreate what the British Film Institute recently classed as “the best British television series of all time,” but providing you capture the energy of the original, have actors capable of bringing it to life (and there’s really no overplaying characters from Fawlty Towers) you’re on your way there. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the entirety of the cast bear an uncanny resemblance to the original actors. (Anthony Sottile’s Manuel is the closest I’ll get to seeing a doppelganger in the flesh.)

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience returns to Perth for the third time as part of the Fringe Festival lineup. Having received rave reviews by audiences and critics alike, I was interested to see their interpretation of the show (and a little anxious given that I’m a long-time fan of the series). When you’re portraying characters as iconic and well-loved as Basil and Sybil Fawlty and the constantly befuddled, oft-mistreated Manuel, you want to try and get it right or face the wrath of the die-hards.

Of course, there’s the added bonus of watching this while you’re wining and dining. The show is touted as an “immersive” experience, and it doesn’t get much more immersive than having the actors move round the tables, often serving you, frequently interrupting you, and occasionally – yes, this happened – climbing up on your table and performing matador impressions. All this can happen halfway through a spoonful of soup, so be prepared. Especially when there’s a very real danger it’ll end up on the person next to you (there are some food-snortingly funny scenes).

That having been said, Rigby’s 3-course 70s-inspired meal is fairly underwhelming; more cafeteria than restaurant, so don’t expect fine food or you’ll come away disappointed. Although, in some ways, if you can get past this, it does serve to heighten the impression that you really are supping at Fawlty Towers’ infamous restaurant (Manuel goes on his search for his missing pet rat mid-meal, so be prepared).

Sybil (Karen Hamilton) and Basil (Benedict Holme) work wonderfully together, recreating the hostile dynamic of the two, convincingly portraying the couple’s dysfunctional relationship, and Manuel (Anthony Sottile) is brilliant, bumbling his way round the restaurant, throwing the occasional bread roll or spoonful of chives at audience members and leaving general destruction and confusion in his wake.  

While some critics have called it “side-splittingly hilarious,” this isn’t necessarily always the case. That’s not to say it isn’t for the most part, but it’s not consistently funny. The real thrill of the night for me, rather, was watching three consummate professionals nail Fawlty Towers’ main characters. I was fixated with the way these actors so totally inhabited their characters, right down to their myriad ticks and inflections. It was hard to watch without trying to calculate how many times these guys must have re-watched Fawlty Towers to capture so exquisitely the nuanced mannerisms of the three leads.

With tickets starting at $89 it’s a good deal more expensive than most of the shows on offer at the Fringe Festival, but considering you’re getting a dinner included (even if it’s not 3 Michelin star-worthy grub), its fair to say that you’re getting bang for your buck.

All in all, it’s an entertaining night out, with nothing that faulty about it.

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience

Venue: Rigby’s Bar & Bistro
Lunch Performance Details:
Dates: 25 Jan – 15 Feb, 2014
Tickets: $89
*Pre-dinner drinks from 12:30pm/starts 1:00pm

Dinner Performance Details:
Dates: 24 Jan–15 Feb, 2014  
Tickets: $95
*Pre-dinner drinks from 6:30pm/starts 7:00pm

Bookings: www.interactivetheatre.com.au

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