‘Faulty Towers’ dining experience brings classic gags to life

By  |  0 Comments

In two decades of reviewing theatre I’ve pretty much seen it all – from high-end to fringe; epic dramas to humble two-handers, but one area I’ve steered clear of is dinner theatre, not due to snobbery over slapstick, but simply because I like to do one thing at a time: to eat or to enjoy a show – not both at the same time.

As misfortune would have it, just as I sat down at our table in Perth CBD bistro, Rigby’s, discreetly tucked away into a corner of the room so as to get a good fly-on-the-wall perspective of what looked set to be some hilarious antics, I was sprung by one of the actors of the Faulty Towers Dining Experience.

“Why don’t you come closer down the table to sit near some of our other lovely guests?” proffered the distinctly familiar voice of a trussed-up Sybil Fawlty. “They won’t bite.”

“Well, Mrs Fawlty,” I played along, whispering, “I am actually here to, er, review your establishment…”

Within seconds, of course, I became the butt of the trio’s bullseye comedy.

“Look at you!” squealed Sybil. “You’re flushing.”

“He has the menopause?” shouted Manuel from half-way across the room in a panic. “He sweating; he sweating.”

“Manuel, quickly,” demanded Basil. “Get the man a fan. A fan, Manuel, a fan!”

Out drags Manuel an industrial-sized oscillating fan, and now he’s having trouble plugging it into the wall because the lead won’t reach.

Sybil chirps in again, tapping him on the shoulder, like a headmistress trying to teach manners to a monkey: “Manuel, if you’d kindly just ask the gentleman to stand up from his chair, you might be able to stick it in behind him.”

Of course all of this is only making me blush (or flush) even more-so, and I have gone from wanting to be a discreet spectator of a show to a major pawn for the sake of laughs all-round.

That’s the thing about dinner theatre – it’s like positioning yourself in the front row of a stand-up comedy act – you are in the direct firing line of the comedian no matter how hard you try to hide.

Personal embarrassment aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the two-hour show that is the Faulty Towers Dining Experience (yes, they have purposely misspelled that famous surname).

The three actors who channel the spirits of one entertainment history’s most famous screwed-up crews – Karen Hamilton as Sybil, Ben Holme as Basil, and Anthony Sottile as Manuel – do a brilliant, uncanny job of emulating the iconic TV personalities.

It’s one thing to deliver a course of slapstick gags – especially classic ones that never loses their potency – but to be able to carry on a conversation at one table, while keeping an eye on fellow talent to see what they’re up to at tables two and three, and watch out for the nuances of guests on table four to see what best to prey on next is, quite simply, genius.

And considering only a third of the show is scripted, it becomes apparent that these actors are not mere deliverers of the oldest form of comedy in the book, but consummate all-round entertainers.

Put simply, this show is so funny, it left me and my now-flushing-too guest with two very sore sets of jaws. But every bit of that temporary pain is worth it.

‘Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience’ is on at Rigby’s Bar & Bistro, 221 St Georges Terrace from now until February 15 as part of Fringeworld 2014. Tickets are $89 to $95 for dinner and show, and available through www.fringeworld.com.au.