Farcical Fawlty fun

Fawltie Towers Trio Tribute Show

Bungunyah Manor Resort

There is something perhaps a bit naff about dinner theatre, especially given its 1970s and ‘80s heyday. However, as “The Fawltie Towers Tribute Show” proves, there can also be something immensely fun about the naffness, especially when it borders on farcical. And when it comes to absurd, you can’t really go past the antics at the ubiquitous Torquay hotel of “Fawlty Towers” (in reality Mount Tamborine’s Bangunyah Manor).

The show is brought to life by an ensemble of three – Basil (Blair Martin), Sybil (Sandra Harman) and Manuel (Stefan Cooper-Fox), each of whom give smooth performances as they assist in serving guests, always remembering the nature of banter with each group and recalling the diner ‘demands’ for later reference. Their character impersonations are impeccable and their collective ability to ad-lib in character without missing a beat, adds not only the authenticity of the production, but the holistic appeal of the evening. Clearly the show’s creatives understand and respect the relationships that viewers have to the characters of the classic 1970s BBC comedy.

The misunderstandings and insults begin well before dinner. As guests mingle by the fire over drinks and canapés, we become privy to Basil’s plan to ‘pretend to forget’ wife Sybil’s birthday. From there, the antics unfold into all sorts of chaos around the interconnected dining rooms.

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As he mingles amongst the guests, giving each table individual attention as he searches for possible health inspectors, Martin’s Basil swings from being easily impressed by the customers whom he considers to be of better class to under-breath mutterings of disgust at comparatively-lowbrow guests. He is a formidable character as he slaps down plates for diners and responds to requests with reminder that he is the manager. It is a mere lip-service proclamation given his perpetually-manic demeanour. Although all suffering in presence of his wife with constant “yes dear” replies, he is never more brash that in his bullying of Manuel.

As the dejected Manuel, Cooper-Fox’s head couldn’t hang any lower as he scampers about in service of tables and in response to Basil’s ambiguous requests. As he mutters his attempts at defence of Basil’s dago insults (“I speak English very good”) one cannot help but feel for the loveable, submissive waiter who really does know nothing. (You have to forgive him; he’s from Barcelona.)

Cybil is captured to passive-aggressive perfection by Sandra Harman, down to the finest of inflections and shrill tone of voice as she shrieks at “Basiiiiil!” But it is her droll laughter, particularly in interrupted phone call to friend Audrey that is the most on-point, eliciting huge laughs from audience members who have such intimate familiarity with the characters’ every nuance.

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Although they might not be the most hospitable of hoteliers, this interactive night out with the Fawlties is full of fun and perfect for a special occasion group outing. The venue is comfortable and complete with cosy atmosphere, the four course feast of food is superb (“the chef is a wiz with a tin opener,” Basil quips) and the show is highly entertaining. It comes of course with all the misadventures expected of a “Fawlty Towers” type experience, and, as such, is full of references to the war (despite advice to the contrary), simulated violence and maybe even a rat. But fans of the series surely wouldn’t want it any other way.

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