Review: Faulty Towers, the dining experience (rating 5/5)
Like the Beatles, and – at one time – Bobby Charlton – there are some individuals and institutions who everyone in the world seems to have heard of. Basil, Sybil and Manuel of Fawlty Towers, that short-lived Seventies television series, seem to share similar global notoriety. A visitor at our table, who hailed from Seattle, was a big fan and told me she’d stayed at a recreated Fawlty Towers hotel on the Zambia / Zimbabwe border where the staff stay in character 24/7. Extraordinary.
This touring show, retitled Faulty Towers for legal and copyright reasons, is now in its 13th year in Edinburgh and delights audiences with a selection of some of the most famous scenes: Manuel’s rat on the loose, the panic over a fake fire and Basil’s horse racing bet. It was almost perfectly scripted that one of the guests introduced herself at the pre-dinner reception as “German”, which prompted Basil (Jack Baldwin) to respond: “More of that later”.
Given the nature of the show it is sometimes difficult to tell where the event is on or off plan. Guests felt confused about queuing for the dining room, but shrugged with a smile. “After all, this is Fawlty Towers,” said one.
This is a three-course dinner with a difference. The meal is good, as expected of the George Hotel, but don’t go expecting a fine dining experience. Plates are thrown and food is snatched away. It’s all done for laughs and works a treat.
The entertainment is provided by just three actors playing the key roles and the evening proceeds with chaotic service and madcap rushing around the tables by Basil and Manuel (Oliver Harrison), with Karina Garnett as Sybil acting as the usual arbiter of good manners and behaviour. If you’re celebrating a birthday, expect a little attention.
Harrison is particularly impressive as the inept Spanish waiter, providing a convincing performance as good as that of Andrew Sachs who shot to fame in the original 12-episode series. Garnett got Sybil’s snorting laugh to a tee.
Basil, of course, is the main character and Baldwin plays the part with a suitably apt mix of buffoonery and pomposity.
One small gripe was that the George’s real staff were a bit grumpy and slow to serve (a number of people left before coffee). But for Fawlty fans and those who have never come across it (if there are such people) , this is good night out.
Principal Hotel (George), until 26 August