Basil is back. He’s sold Fawlty Towers for a reasonable sum and has now found a new home just off the strand. There’s no Parking outside, so he’s had to ditch the old red Austin, but there wasn’t any love lost. Other than that, it’s just as you’d expect, with Manwell and Sibyl at his side. He is the host with most (disasters, mishaps and errors).
Up the well-decorated, red-carpeted stairs of Charing Cross, I make my way past two expertly decorated Christmas trees, a number of grand high-ceilinged rooms and finally into Basil’s Bar, marked by a Word-processed sign. There is a queue for drinks, where people are buying wine by the bottle to take in to the dining experience. Basil walks in and out of the room, in his ostrich like way, busying himself with nothing in particular. Manwell takes out some bottles to cover the stains on the tablecloth, which have accidentally been made by the audience and smiles his welcome. Basil gives him some directions which is received with all the classic confusion of Fawlty Towers. Nuts are thrown about, people are blinded as their glasses are taken from them and Manwell rolls across the room.
By the time Sibyl comes to sort it all out, the mood is firmly set with laughter and merriment. Together they seat guests at their predetermined tables. There are ten to a table, so unless you are a big party, there is a good amount of mingling to be had. I was in a party of four, but unfortunately the six other people (three couples) weren’t much cop. Plus they didn’t have any tattoos, weren’t particularly scruffy or kooky to warrant the attention of the performers, so I spent a lot of the show enviously looking over to neighbour tables, who were laughing amongst themselves. Sibyl made a specific effort to entreat our table to chatter, but to no avail. Yet the room is small and the performance is so extreme that it did not taint the experience.
The performance itself sifts through all of the TV shows best bits. There’s something in the soup, Manwell’s rat’s loose, Basil’s side bet, fire rehearsals, Germans as well as a constant interaction with the audience. Perhaps you’d expect nothing less from Interactive Theatre International, but what was particularly charming about the show was the timing spontaneity of the Performers. This blend of rehearsed and improvised allowed the show to have a polished but personal feel about it.
Of course this is all garnished with a three course meal, which for the price of the ticket and considering the location, is a real bargain. Meals were served scantily in keeping with an authentic Fawlty experience, starting with soup and then chicken meal, or vegetable pasta dish if you wanted to test Basil’s patience by being a vegetarian and then after the show is finished you get a cheesecake for desert, to eat at the pace you want. (Amusingly Basil stood over my Grandmother whilst she finished her very last bite of mashed potato, unperturbed by his presence.)
The show is brilliant and the performers really work for every laugh they get in an exhaustive demonstration of physical comedy at its best. For fans of the sitcom, it is absolutely spot on and very much recommended over the Christmas period, before it disappears to the dreaded continent: Basil’s words, not mine.