'Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience' will please Fawlty fans

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Mar 6, 2015 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

Germans were mocked. Rats were chased. Racing bets were made, then unsuccessfully concealed. And Sybil Fawlty exploded many an eardrum while shrieking at her beleaguered (but hardly blameless) husband: “BAAAA-SIL!”

It wasn’t quite like stepping into an episode of Fawlty Towers, but it’s probably as close as you’re going to get.

For a British series that only ran for two seasons in the mid-to-late 1970s, John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers has had an incredible, indelible impact on the comedy consciousness. So much so that some wise souls decided to create a dinner theatre experience based on the show, which has now been imported to Toronto via London’s West End.

Running until April 19 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience puts attendees at the mercy of Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil and their English-challenged waiter, Manuel. The idea is that we, the audience, are dining in the hotel’s restaurant, with comic vignettes going on around us as we eat.

Fans of the classic BBC show, created by Monty Python alumnus Cleese and his then-wife Connie Booth, will love the spot-on characterizations by the U.K.-based cast: Benedict Holme has John Cleese’s rubbery physicality down pat as Basil (even if he looks a bit like a young Eric Idle), Alison Pollard-Mansergh’s accent and attitude is utterly Sybil and Leigh Kelly perfectly channels Manuel’s mix of innocence and incompetence.

It’s not dinner theatre in the traditional sense, though. In fact it’s probably best to look at Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience as a so-so dinner that has some theatrical antics built into it, rather than a full-fledged show with a meal component.

Since the performance is two-thirds improvised and involves audience interaction, the quality will likely vary depending on the temperature of the room and how “on” the actors are on any given night. Our performance featured bursts of manic energy offset by a tendency to not draw attention that’s typical of many Canadians. (Or, as Basil called us, “moose-hunting, hockey-obsessed, maple syrup-licking ex-colonial layabouts!”)

The show’s scripted bits are mostly imported from Fawlty Towers, the series: Manuel’s pet rat gets loose in the dining area, Basil makes a horse racing bet that he tries to conceal from Sybil, false teeth end up in someone’s soup and a head injury leads to a goose-stepping tirade against Germans. It’s all very well done by a cast that has carefully studied the source material, but those who’ve never known the genius that is Fawlty Towers might not find it quite as endearing.

The improv moments weren’t as consistently successful – perhaps in part because the cast has to spread their performance across 13 tables while dodging servers dropping off plates of food – although every table did receive some individual attention. I told my dining companion that I’d be singled out as a dude with a shaved head, and, sure enough, Sybil came by at one point to adjust her hair in the reflection from my gleaming pate. Later, my friend spilled a glass of red wine on our white tablecloth, a golden opportunity for a dressing-down that was only gently seized upon by the cast.

And while the London version of the show is staged in an actual hotel dining room, the Sony Centre’s slightly cramped O’Keefe Lounge, with its black curtains and black ceiling, doesn’t exactly exude the ambience of a tatty British inn. You’ll need to bring imagination as well as an appetite.

The three-course meal consists of soup (for us, it was a tasty, if salty, butternut squash), chicken with carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes (a tofu option is available) and a chocolate-topped shortbread dessert. All passable, but far from gourmet. And with most tickets ringing in at just under $100 a pop, not including tip or alcoholic beverages, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is a slightly dicey value for the money.

Still, if you can round up a table of like-minded Fawlty fans who are willing to lay out the cash, it could make for a very fun and memorable evening. Just remember to check your soup before you taste it. And don’t mention the war.

For tickets and info, visit ticketmaster.ca.

Twitter: @stevetilley

steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca

 

Article source: http://www.torontosun.com/2015/03/06/faulty-towers-the-dining-experience-will-please-fawlty-fans

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