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Faulty Towers The Dining Experience at the Radisson Blu Edwardian

In 2020, for obvious reasons, theatre has been even more about escapism than usual. Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience gives you a chance to have a break from the modern world and the routine of polite-waitered restaurants, and enjoy a hilarious night out and a good meal.

Faulty Towers The Dining ExperienceI was always criminally naive when it came to watching cartoons and kids shows. I never realised at the time that Inspector Gadget was useless and that Penny always saves the day (not that her uncle ever notices). I thought Rentaghost was genuinely terrifying – so much so that I shudder uncontrollably on hearing the first bars of the theme tune, even now. Then, later, watching (repeats of!) Fawlty Towers, I never quite grasped that Basil Fawlty is not running the hotel. Sybil manages the eponymous accommodation, and her useless husband just gets in the way.

In Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience (that halved-double-U in ‘Faulty’ presumably indicating that similarity with any television programme is purely coincidental) we’re welcomed into the embrace (or should I say socially-distanced clutches?) of a joyfully badly run dining establishment. Manuel greets us at the door, delivering us to our allocated, well-spaced table; Sybil intercepts us to give us ‘a quick squeeze’ (of hand sanitiser); Basil, sure enough, bustles around causing mayhem.

In many ways, a useless husband who thinks that he’s in charge, with a quietly competent woman really running the show is just as, if not more, relevant today than when originally created. Yet there is a subtle shift in emphasis here. Gone are the jokes that rely on other characters (or the audience) assuming that the hapless protagonist is, naturally, the top dog. So we are instead treated to a pun-ful of misunderstandings and mistranslations, leading to a less than stellar service as we enjoy a quiet meal out.

Perhaps less a la mode are the jokes arising from a dumb Spanish waiter being bullied by a know-all Brit – which land a little close to home. What does, however, bring the show right up to date is a grace and agility in including and improvising responses to current events. A brilliant ‘Hands, Face, Space, Wash Your Hands’ joke has me laughing out loud in that nervous, ‘How did we end up here?’ way that is so classic to the source material. When they point out that the meal is the best night out you’ll have in 2020 – “a low bar” – it elicits fulsome, knowing, all-in-this together chuckles all round.

The easy humour, relentless farce, carefully-choreographed-for-Covid-safety slapstick and wholehearted cheer of the evening was a standout event for a year where the company will have found it as tough as the audience. The show isn’t going to reveal deep insights into human nature, nor cure all your ills, but the evening is a riotous escape, with a good meal thrown in.

4 stars

Review by Ben Ross

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is a loving tribute to Fawlty Towers, the BBC TV series written by John Cleese and Connie Booth. Their TV scripts are not used in Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. Faulty Towers The Dining Experience uses its own original scripts and format.

The company of actors (nine in total in London) have been rotated on a weekly basis to allow for two-week quarantine period between performances. Dan Wood, Jack Baldwin and Dave Tremaine alternate as ‘Basil’, Kat Mary, Nerine Skinner and Rebecca Norris alternate as ‘Sybil’ and Simon Grujich, Leigh Kelly and Tony Clegg as ‘Manuel’. All cast members wear see-through face masks, to give an extra layer of protection as they interact closely with audience members.

Faulty Towers The Dining Experience
Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury, London

Read about Fawlty Towers the Play (2024)

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