Brighton Fringe 2011
There is no need for the audience to ‘imagine’ they are in a restaurant when they check into this performance.
For the next three hours the Audience ARE in the ‘Faulty Towers’ dining room of the aforementioned 1970’s Television show.
Whilst waiting in the foyer bar for the show to start, characters from the popular television show appeared subtly and without dramatic entrance in the foyer of this large hotel. Manuel appeared running around frantically chased by Basil Faulty. As the two characters interact with the audience, Sybil appeared demanding a sense of order.
From the outset the actors Karen Hamilton as Sybil, David Sweetman as Manuel and Jordan Edmeades as the eccentric Basil Faulty give a perfect start to the evening.
The choice of venue not being a typical theatre-based one was ideal, having not been to the Thistle Hotel in Brighton before, the experience became even more realistic. As Basil listed the guests names and gave table numbers we had no reason not to suspend our disbelief in the comic events unraveling in front, underneath and beside their tables.
Towering six feet six above the audience, Jordan’s performance was much more than an impersonation of an iconic character, and the same can be said for David and the Faulty Towers Experience veteran, Karen Hamilton. All of the performers were so tight in their perfectly executed performances.
From Manuel’s ‘I known nothing‘ to Basil’s famous pants on the head sketch, along with all the other well known moments from the television show, all were subtly added and performed.
The delivery of food acted as an interval with the bread rolls being served by the hapless Manuel, and organized with the eagle eyes of Sybil, whilst Basil ran around trying to place a bet on a horse.
When reviewing the overall ‘experience‘ of a show calling itself a ‘Dining experience’ we must take into consideration the food. Chicken, potato and vegetables in a rich gravy were on the menu tonight.
After looking around at tables around us, all the food was eaten by the end of the interval, bread rolls aplenty and chocolate tart for dessert was lovely. Often food in a show of this nature is overlooked and poorly executed; however, at the Thistle Hotel the food is clearly important and reflects the actors’ performance quality.
With a show of this standard, with a lot of improvisation, the cast must be confident and competent performers. At this performance all three of the cast had impeccable comic timing and the moments between the audience and the performers were perfectly balanced by the performers ability to stay in character whilst serving the food.
Obviously serving the food can give the performers opportunity to create a relationship with the audience members. The performers skilled and clear understanding of theatre, use this to learn who is ‘game for a laugh’ and who is not engaged. Manuel is often sent in to find this out.
If someone in the audience is not willing to be involved, the attention is not drawn to them, and instead, Basil as the ‘Lead’ takes attention towards the other side of the restaurant.
However, if the audience members are ‘game’ both Basil and Manuel attack them with well known comical quips and sketches. Picking such a well known, iconic and much loved television show to perform to a (mostly) English audience, the Australian actors performance as well as production must be five Stars for it to work.mIt is not enough to just look like the characters – their voice and stage presence must be as strong. This can be seen in the example of Elvis Presley impersonators, some look the part but sound awful and vice versa.
This is not the case here. This band of actors from Australia could be mistaken for the original actors with no hint of a Australian accent. Jordan as Basil could very well BE the fantastic and very British actor John Cleese with a masterful performance, imitating Cleese’s vocal tone and voice along with the delivery of his manic and blunt Basil Fawlty characteristics. A five star performance in itself.
Then actors Karen and David also give one hundred percent effort and dedication to their parts as Sybil and Manuel in their own individual excellent performances. All together this show on technical performance alone should receive five stars.
Great food and performance make this a show worth the price of admission. Choosing from the menu the juicy chicken and chocolate tart for dessert, topped off with hysterically funny improvisation and tight scripted sketches true to the originals.