Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience
Rigby's Bar and Bistro
REVIEW: LUCY BALLANTYNE
Polly was always my favourite character in Fawlty Towers. As a child I would watch her lilac dress swan around the hotel in futile attempts to save it from ruin and wish I could be just like her. Sitting behind the counter sketching, Polly was an island of calm.
John Cleese and Connie Booth's Fawlty Towers is a program almost unrivalled in terms of its adoration in the pop cultural memory. Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience understands the relationships, like mine and Polly's, that viewers have to the characters of John Cleese and Connie Booth's beloved show. An ensemble of three - Basil, Sybil and Manuel - armed with Rigby's own team of waitstaff serve a three-course meal, complete with all the misadventures one would expect of a Fawlty Towers event.
Much like the hotel itself, the performance had its fair share of shortcomings. When the performers ventured too far from the original Fawlty Towers script, laughs were inevitably fewer. When Basil whispered to Manuel, "It's for a horse", the audience erupted.
Cleese and Booth's characters are so strong and recognisable, the success of Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience was always going to ride on the quality of the impersonators' performances. The show has been running since 1997, and thankfully this experience shone through: the impressions were sublime. Sybil's droll laughter, Basil's pained smile and Manuel's infamous "Que?" were all painfully in-the-room.
The tacky 1970s dinner-and-a-show format works for the time period, and as we chowed down on Quiche Lorraine, accompanied by Sybil's banal banter, I could easily have been somewhere else. Though it is the same jokes and the same characters over and over again, for a person with a long-standing love of the show, watching the characters come to life so accurately is a dream.
I am only left to wonder: where was Polly? One can only hope she finally managed to flog a painting and high-tailed it out of there.
Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience runs until February 15.