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Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House
March 19, 2016
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is a real lark of a night: entertainment with a great meal to boot. The evening begins with the audience milling around the front of the Utzon room, when a short, confused Spaniard bumbles in, interrupting conversation, confiscating wine glasses, and dragging chairs around in a disorderly fashion. The cry of “Manuel!” alerts the audience that the show has commenced, and we are well and truly part of it.
A lanky lookalike of Basil Fawlty (Jordan Edmeades) sways into the room and reproaches Manuel (Andy Foreman), before seating the guests, with characteristic Basil-like barbs and injunctions, such as “Tuck in your shirt!” and “Are you the grandma?” When a high-pitched, demanding shriek of “Basil!” echoes around the room and Sybil (Donna Gray) struts in, we know the cast is complete.
The Aria-catered dishes of pea soup, chicken and Eton mess were delightful and complemented the comedy superbly. With uncanny representations of the original characters from the show, we could easily have been in Basil’s hotel being served by John Cleese and Connie Booth.
The entertainment mixes improvisatory material with some original moments from the series. So we get Basil’s hamster, the knickers on the head bit, and even the famous Hitler walk. But we also get interactions between cast and audience, like Sybil doing her hair on the back of a gentleman’s head who is short of a hair or two; Manuel essentially dry humping a number of guests; and Basil preying on “Bill”, an elderly gentleman who “may have been alive during the Crusades”.
But apart from all this, the sense of nostalgia that the evening’s show engenders owes at least something to what Fawlty Towers the series represents, which is a time when the politically incorrect was in fact correct – and funny! John Cleese himself has recently opined that PC is suffocating comedy. In a room where everyone is fair game for ad hominem attack, there is no malice or sensitivity, only good-natured humour. And plenty of bottles of wine.