Edinburgh Fringe 2015
The Edinburgh edition of Faulty Towers, The Dining Experience is as sharp, as achingly funny and as wonderful to see and become part of as any I have seen. It is not easy to bring a beloved TV series to life, but Jack Baldwin, Suzanna Hughes and Brian Roche manage to capture our hearts even as they tickle our funny bones in a delightful 2 hour extravaganza of ridiculous and unexpected humor laced with the kind of inept humanity that these wonderful characters create. It is confusion, misunderstandings, misconceptions and well meaning shambles at its best. The gentleman sitting across from me, born and bred in Edinburgh, said “The program was the best TV series ever .”
It is a huge challenge to meet that standard,but this cast does that and more. Each character is endearing even as they make us laugh and many of the incidents are so familiar to the audience that we chuckle in anticipation as poor Manuel rolls on the floor instead of passing the bread to the customers and Basil send a woman to her table saying, “And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how we get rid of the riff raff.”
We all know what is going to happen when Basil sends Manuel out to place a bet on a horse. We know where that fish is going that Sybil brandishes and we ache for Manuel as he tries to save his hamster from an inevitable demise.
This Basil, Sybil and Manuel serve plenty of their trademark mayhem alongside a three-course meal in this must-see performance. In true Faulty fashion, the fun starts as you wait to be seated and then hurtles along for two hours filled with all the best gags we remember from the TV series. Two-thirds improvised, no two shows are ever the same, so expect the unexpected!
The original TV series is set in Fawlty Towers, a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, on the “English Riviera”. The plots centre on tense, rude and put-upon owner Basil Fawlty his bossy wife Sybil , and hapless Spanish waiter Manuel , showing their attempts to run the hotel amidst farcical situations and an array of demanding and eccentric guests.
Jack Baldwin’s Basil embodies the original TV character, a snobbish and cynical, whose job forces him to be pleasant to people he does not respect. You never doubt his frustration and his determination to rise above what he feels is an intolerable situation
Suzanna Hughes is the perfect Sybil, not too shrill, yet desperately trying to control an uncontrollable situation in her dining room. She is often verbally abusive but always invokes our sympathy as she tried to keep the chaos in the dining room under control.
I have seen three Manuel’s to date, and each one brings his own charm to his part. He is a well-meaning but disorganized and confused waiter from Barcelona who has no command of the English language and confuses every order he is given by his bosses. Since we have all seen this character on TV, we all know what is going to happen and often we laugh even before he confuses Basil’s orders and pitches rolls at the customers when he is told to serve them.
The pace of this show always amazes me and I never understand how any of us manage to eat the really delicious meal B’est Restaurant serves us. We are all absorbed in the action and the delightful improvised repartee of the three characters. Interactive Theatre International has once again given us an unforgettable experience and a performance we will never forget. Everyone loves a good dinner, but it becomes a true diamond when you laugh throughout it all and relive the experience with your favorite TV characters doing their antics right before your eyes.