Dining with the Faulties

Oct 13, 2014, 07:55 IST | Sowmya Venkat

How do you react if you're in a restaurant run by eccentrics? Read a mid-day reader's account of what transpired when she attended a dinner theatre performance of popular TV show Fawlty Towers, which had its India debut in Mumbai last week

It began like a typical social corporate event — a busy bar was crowded by suited men and their classy spouses. Suddenly, a tall British gentleman stormed in, and was followed by a diminutive waiter who proceeded to bully guests into their seats. Soon, 100 surprised guests were ushered to their seats. After this rude interlude, we asked Basil if he was rude or oblivious to the niceties of being in the hospitality industry. In a flash, he responded, "No I'm not rude; I would just be able to get all my work done so easily if I didn’t have these guests getting in the way." The Faulty Towers — The Dining Experience* had begun!

Guests were caught unawares during the dinner theatre experience as Manuel’s antics kept the laughter quotient high, throughout the show

Faulty Towers in India
Theatre person Divya Palat, who watched the performance for the first time in London earlier this year, found it interactive and a laugh riot. "I knew it would revolutionise theatre as we see it in India," she recalls. Fawlty Towers, the BBC television sitcom was first broadcast, in 1975. Nearly 40 years later, she has brought the show to Indian audiences. And so, we eased into watching Basil Faulty, his bossy wife Sybil and their bumbling Spanish waiter Manuel at a delightful pop-up at the Taj Lands End.

Manuel proceeds to serve while tossing bread rolls, using guest napkins and standing on tables. Robert Langston, who has done about 600 shows of Faulty Towers for two years, plays John Cleese’s role of Basil Fawlty effortlessly. His resemblance to the original actor is uncanny, almost as if the original Cleese (now 86 years) was on stage. Karen Hamilton, who plays the wife, we learnt, is also a stunt performer specialising in high falls!

Improv all the way
While watching this interactive show, one realises quickly that with improvisation and audience interjections, no two shows can be the same. Later, Langston admits that the actors feed off the audience’s reactions. Thrilled at the positive response for her dinner theatre production, Palat reveals, "Dinner theatre is a wonderful socialising experience. To watch a fine play or show over meals and drinks can be a relaxing, ideal way to be entertained."

Note: *The theatre production is spelt as Faulty Towers whereas the BBC TV series spelt it as as Fawlty Towers.
The show will travel to Delhi (Oct 14 & 15) and Chennai (Oct 18 & 19)

THe original TV series

Written and starring John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth, the show was named as the best British television series of all times in 2000. The series was set in Fawlty Towers, a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, on the English Riviera. The plot revolves around tense, rude and put-upon owner Basil Fawlty (Cleese), his bossy wife Sybil (Prunella Scales) and hapless Spanish waiter Manuel (Andrew Sachs) and shows their attempts to run the hotel amidst farcical situations and eccentric guests. The Fawlty Towers — The Dining Experience is based on the sitcom and performed globally by six teams of actors in the  UK and three teams in Australia that are always interchanging.

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