Nostalgic Interactive Theatre – Fawlty Towers:
Fawlty Towers is one of the most iconic sitcoms of all time. Remarkably there were only 12 episodes ever made, which if you are a fan you will probably know each one inside out. It was first broadcast on BBC2 in 1975 and ran until 1979. Set in a small hotel in the seaside town Torquay, it focused on the uptight, rude and put-upon owner Basil Fawlty, his bossy wife Sybil and the hapless Spanish waiter Manuel. As a 70’s child, it was very much a staple in my household, and I have fond memories of entertaining family evenings watching the catastrophic antics of Basil and Sybil.
The Fawlty Towers Dining Experience first premiered in Brisbane in 1997. It has been in constant demand throughout Australia, Europe, Ireland, Scandinavia, the United Arab Emirates and the UK ever since its Australian debut.
I was invited to the Kingsway Hotel in Covent Garden to come and enjoy first hand the fully interactive dining experience, which pays homage to the beloved TV characters, Basil, Sybil and Manuel within a hotel restaurant setting where you, the audience are the diners and in-between courses a is fully fledged immersive performance.
On arrival drinks are served in the bar area (at extra cost) where quickly one discovers you are in the thick of it, first to arrive was the perfectly impersonated and very funny Manuel played by actor Richard Emerson who started scrabbling around amongst the coats, then the familiar, highly strung, gangly legged Basil, played by David Tremaine, who had his physical mannerisms down to a tee and then of course the overly coiffured locks of the tightly clad Sybil, excellently portrayed by Rebecca Norris, who with her imperious manner who kept everyone in check.
My friend and I were complete novices to interactive theatre, and admittedly it wouldn’t be my usual cup of tea, but game for anything and a firm fan of Fawlty Towers I thought I would come along and find out what it was all about. We were seated at a large table joining the 120 other guests in an evening of uncomfortable squirming and laughter, as we became active participants on the set of a fusion of the highlights of the series.
Served is a 3-course 70’s inspired dinner, with a menu of English specialities; spiced carrot and fennel soup, and chicken with tarragon mash and fresh vegetables, finishing off with a chocolate delice. I can only say I don’t recall the food of the 70’s being quite so mediocre, but perhaps it was meant to add to the experience of staying in one of Britain’s badly run hotels.
I was fortunate enough to speak with the actors after the show, who all seemed to really enjoy the challenge of taking part in interactive theatre, I was very impressed with their performances, they clearly live and breathe the personas of those they inhabit and have thoroughly researched their roles, plus seem to be dab hands at ad-libbing and managing to work the room according to their audience and surroundings. Both actors David Tremaine and Rebecca Norris wrote and also perform in the ‘Wedding Reception’, which is another interactive theatrical dining experience.
The lost in translation antics of Manuel were true to form as he was told to “collect the glasses” and instead removed spectacles from the faces of bemused guests, whilst the vitriolic disdain between the warring Basil and Cybil was gloriously inclusive as they sidled up to us to whisper what many have thought about unsuitable partners but dare not say.
All in all the evening was a great success, and for those who have yet to view, I suggest you watch Dave before you go if you want to have any hope of knowing what you’re letting yourselves in for.
EXPERIENCE THE EXPERIENCE – JANUARY-MARCH 2017
For tour detail, see the venue list
LONDON WEST END – January – March
Six shows per week at continuing London West End residency:
Thurs-Sun evenings plus Sat-Sun matinées.
Torquay Suite Theatre, Amba Hotel Charing Cross, The Strand, London WC2N 5HX