Missed your summer holiday? The Torquay Suite is open for Faulty Towers the Dining Experience mayhem with Basil, Sybil and Manuel
“Señor Faulty, why you fork me?”
So to Bloomsbury for the Torquay Suite in the Radisson where Basil Faulty (a delightfully lanky Dan Wood) greets us on arrival. Our temperatures are taken. Standing at the desk, in pink tweed suit, tight skirt to show off her derriere assets, blouse with a frilly collar and cuffs and sensible heeled shoes we are welcomed by Sybil Faulty (Katharine Mary). As Sybil always was, she is immaculately coiffed her hair piled up with curls pinned and lacquered in place.
The most striking thing about Sybil until we hear her gasping, snorting, guttural laugh of a donkey, is her voice, maybe an Essex accent but so distinctive and recognisable that I have never heard anyone else like it. She fusses solicitously round the clients and flirts with the men. Basil is overseeing the dining room and although several waiters are black masked with the Radisson Hotel, one appears to still be learning food service in the hospitality industry in Devon. This is Manuel (Simon Grujich) a wellmeaning and likeable waiter of Spanish origin and rather poor understanding of English, whom Basil takes to task.
Manuel’s speciality is in misunderstanding Basil’s various orders. The bread rolls are served liked cricket balls and the request for butter causes Manuel, bull fighting style to Butt Her! a female diner. Contrasting with Basil’s irascibility, is Sybil’s long suffering patience with the perpetually puzzled Manuel. Lovely, well honed performances all round. Basil’s urging the waiters to speed up with “Chop chop!” is interpreted by Manuel as “Chip Shop” when he is organising the rather bemused professional staff.
The first course, Tomato Soup with basil (of course) is served and Manuel’s prat falls, crashing into swing doors and antics with nuts and bowls make us grin and grin. Basil, Manuel and Sybil wear perspex masks, not the full face kind but I suspect what are eye masks worn up side down, the nose piece lodged under their chin. They work well as no facial remonstration is spared us.
Manuel will entertain in a rendition of a popular tourist song from Spain and later Sybil hits the highest of notes for an inordinate length of time, for which Basil wears blue kitchen roll like the ears of a bloodhound. The main course is served chicken, vegetables, potato fondant for meat eaters as Basil identifies a customer from Germany. Basil’s furious rant against the customers showing pity for Manuel and his rodent pet with “Oohs and Awhs”, “It’s not a panto!” is met with the traditional pantomimic denial and refrain.
In this celebration of one of the BBC’s greats, Fawlty Towers, is a tribute to the hospitality industry and laughter; those bed and breakfast places where we left the chicken carcass in the potty in the bedside cupboard and mended the cigarette hole in the carpet with harvested carpet fluff, eye shadow and hair spray. The real Fawlty Towers must have given hotel guests a wealth of amusing stories.
Basil can contain himself no longer and launches a tirade against “the pretentious, left wing, liberal, lefty fascists” with his inimitable high goose step, legs as long as a flamingo but clad in narrow black trousers and raised at right angles to his torso.
Does this scenario work for those who haven’t seen the television series? Oh yes! Slapstick and word play delight and most have seen the Specsavers ad where John Cleese thrashes someone else’s car.
The show ends and the panna cotta pudding with raspberry tuile is delicious! I loved it all and the laughs in the time of coronavirus are invaluable!
As a foot note from the BBC News website from June this year I add this story.
A classic episode of the comedy Fawlty Towers will be reinstated to streaming service UKTV with a warning about “offensive content and language”.
A 1975 episode titled The Germans was taken off the BBC Studios-owned platform because of “racial slurs”.
In it, the Major character uses highly offensive language, and John Cleese’s hotel owner Basil Fawlty declares “don’t mention the war”.
UKTV had temporarily removed the episode while it carried out a review.
The move had been criticised by Cleese who wrote on Twitter: “I would have hoped that someone at the BBC would understand that there are two ways of making fun of human behaviour.
“One is to attack it directly. The other is to have someone who is patently a figure of fun, speak up on behalf of that behaviour.”
A comment on Twitter says,
“We saw this exact show in English class, here in Germany and we enjoyed it.”
This comment might be satire but it made me laugh.
We don’t usually give stars but as I’m auditioning to be a food critic, 2* for the soup, 3* for the main course, 5* for the pudding and 5* for the show.
Faulty Towers, the Dining Experience
Artistic Director: Alison Pollard-Mansergh
Haydn “Dan” Wood
Assistant Show Director: Dan Wood
Running Time: Two hours
Booking to 2nd May 2021
The Torquay Suite
Radisson Blu Edwardian
9-13 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B 3QD
London N1 1TA
Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge at the Radisson
on 4th December 2020