Edinburgh Fringe 2014
It’s not often you get a hot meal with your hot ticket, but with Fringe favourites Faulty Towers, now in its seventh year, you get both.
The fun starts early with Basil, Manuel and Sybil all interacting and distracting as you wait to be seated. It should be made clear that this isn’t exactly dinner theatre – this isn’t a story with a beginning, a middle and an end – and nor is it precisely improv: it’s apparent that the same moments and riffs from episodes of the classic series happen at each sitting. And, to be fair, while the food is lovely, it might be that some might expect a little more special at the price. But that’s not why you’re buying the ticket: The name of the show is The Dining Experience, and this is certainly an unique experience.
The characterisations are all pitch perfect, with Basil and Manuel sparring with each other – and customers – throughout. Arguably, replicating Prunella Scales’ Sybill is a thankless task when next to the classic hotelier and his ineffectual waiter, but Karina Garnett is able to channel Sybil’s gimlet eyed long suffering with aplomb. That’s not to side-line Benedict Holme and Leigh Kelly as Basil and Manuel respectively, who are both excellent.
Not only are customers / audience members / dinner guests well looked after, by the opening course, many are feeling actively emboldened to interject, interrupt, and complain. One boy at our table was wearing a T shirt with a picture on Manuel on the chest, and was treated with the appropriate amount of disdain from Basil, and delighted awe from Manuel, who confided that the tee shirts were actually produced in bulk by his mother back home.
Many of the moments that fans remember from the series are woven into the loose narrative of the evening, and even the food itself is a great joke (the dessert particularly being a seventies classic). It’s worth pointing out, too, that B’est is an excellent restaurant, who have accommodated the Faulty Fawltys very well – when a child on our table appeared to be uninterested in his main course, someone appeared to discreetly offer him an alternative.
Famously, Fawlty Towers only served up twelve episodes. If you’re hungry for more, book a ticket. Fair warning, though: no Waldorf Salad.