We visited this Fawlty Towers-inspired attraction for an evening of mayhem. See how we fared with Basil and co…
A well-practised smile from the country’s most obnoxious hotel owner, Basil Faulty, is what awaits you at Faulty Towers The Dining Experience. Set in an ornate ballroom at London’s Charing Cross Hotel, this interactive dinner-performance features the three principal characters from the 1970s TV smash-hit Fawlty Towers – Basil, his condescending wife, Sybil, and the calamitous Spanish waiter, Manuel – with hilarity the main order of the day.
The action begins in the ‘Faulty Towers bar’, where the hosts smile and schmooze their way through the groups of guests, leading to the first of many misunderstandings between Basil and Manuel, the latter’s interpretation of ‘circulating the nuts’ a particular highlight. Eventually Basil reads the table plan – an innovative touch that lets you have your moment with Basil – and woe betide any German sounding surnames…
Once seated, couples and small groups may be surprised to find themselves on tables with strangers; a good opportunity to meet new people, but, rather like being at a wedding, there’s always someone who gets a bit overexcited at the speeches. I was sat next to a lovely couple from Houston, Texas, who were fans of the original show and keen to experience a farce in true English theatrical style. On that front Basil and company didn’t disappoint.
Cleverly weaving in storylines from the original show (Manuel’s pet rat, Basil’s gambling…) the characters are omnipresent, at times giving you respite to talk and dine, at other moments launching into 20-minute set pieces that will have you roaring with laughter. The actors are excellent mimics of the original cast and draw on a wealth of expressions from the show in their improvising. Corin Stuart gives a convincing if, dare I say it, likeable performance as Basil; Karina Garnett is an expert at holding the audience’s gaze with her school-mistress interpretation of Sybil, while diminutive Brian Roche provides the foil to the 6ft 6in Basil, mastering both a Spanish accent and the art of performing a ‘bread roll’.
Interacting with the characters is part of the allure, and for this you’ll need a thick skin, Basil’s tongue-in-cheek ripostes designed to cause maximum offence. The cast does an excellent job of maintaining the charade that they are serving you in the real Fawlty Towers – my only gripe being that they departed before the end of dessert, sticking to the age-old theatrical rule of always leaving your audience wanting more.
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience was uniquely enjoyable and is a worthy alternative to some of the West End’s other shows. Included in the £54 evening ticket (£47 matinees) is a three-course meal with coffee (vegetarian options available), and although my memory of the food soon evaporated (it was hearty enough so that my sides hurt when I laughed), it is the endless puns and slapstick gags that will have you raving as you walk down the steps of Faulty Towers.
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