'Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience' brings '70s food and interactive theatre to London
England’s most abominated hotel is receiving interesting reviews on TripAdvisor. Instead, Fawlty Towers, the classic comedy series, may have inspired a popular interactive theatre show that’s garnered its share of critical acclaim.Faulty Towers (with a ‘u’): The Dining Experience recently launched its continuous London run in the Torquay Suite Theatre, appropriately situated in the Charing Cross Hotel.
For nearly 16 years, the immersive theatrical show has been exporting British quirk and humour overseas via its touring performances from South Africa to Cyprus. Although its TV predecessor was a UK home-grown product, Faulty Towers, debuted overseas in Brisbane, Australia in 1997. Its unpredictable, personalised form of entertainment seems to crack a chord, even with audiences that were unable to grow up watching John Cleese on the original programme.
“Guests feel they are in the show,” says Alison Pollard-Mansergh, Faulty Towers’ artistic director and company founder (who also plays ‘Sybil’). During the course of the two-hour interactive homage which includes a three-course meal, cast members remain in character as ‘Basil,’ ‘Sybil,’ ‘Manuel’ and others, and engage with the audience. Spontaneity aims to be a key part of the experience.
“Two-thirds of the script is ad-libbed,” Pollard-Mansergh says. “The show is more immersive than interactive, stuff happens all around the guests, behind them, in front of them, on the tables, under the tables… !”
Kitchen debacles are commonplace, and some of the show’s cast members are hardly novices when it comes to the world of hospitality. Pollard-Mansergh has in fact owned her own restaurant. “I’ve worked in the hospitality industry since I was 18.” She jokes: “Most actors do hospitality when they’re out of work so they usually have great serving skills.”
Like its classic TV counterpart, Faulty Towers takes place in the ‘70s, so in addition to retro costumes, “‘70s food” is also served. The spectacle aims to incorporate some technological updates into its improvisation: “Even though we’re dressed in 1970s gear, we actively acknowledge Twitter,” says Pollard-Mansergh.
They also tweak performances when the show tours Spanish speaking countries, where ‘Manuel’ and his notoriously thick accent and language challenges might take some getting used to before making much sense.
Back in ‘Basil Fawlty’ territory, the cast may evade to make many adjustments. “[London audience members] are coming with a view that this is a national treasure,” adds Pollard-Mansergh. Although dissimilar to the fictional ‘70s hotel, this Faulty Towers has obtained plenty of five star reviews.
Torquay Suite Theatre
Charing Cross Hotel The Strand, WC2N 5HX