2019 brings us a choice of not one, but two Fawlty Towers themed dining experiences. The most notable difference is that this one, as its marketing is keen to remind us, is fully endorsed by John Cleese and Connie Booth. This is its first time at the Fringe, where dinner shows have long proven popular options for punters seeking a longer, more elegant experience than the average show can provide.
Keeping with the sweeping theme of nostalgia across the city this year, Fawlty Towers immerses us in the characters, tropes and atmosphere of the original TV series. Cleese and Booth only created 12 episodes of the show, leaving audiences wanting more, and still wanting more, decades on. This type of theatre provides that return to a bygone era and iconic comedy gold.
The cast (Jonathan Hansler as Basil, Jess Luisa-Flynn as Sybil, Erin Leighton as Polly and David Boyle as Manuel) does an excellent job of impersonating the characters, capturing their essences, mannerisms and voices. And the script follows the original ones closely – taking in moments from all 12 episodes in just over two hours.
At points the cast directly involves us and improvise, but then there are scripted sections, with some ever so slightly stilted segues between the two. We are not served by the characters at all, which you might hope given the setting and the style of the show. So Manuel, in particular, seems odd milling while hotel staff (the actual hotel waiters, not characters) serve us. He does throw some bread rolls, which is fun, but it would be more joyfully chaotic if the cast had been able to get involved with the service too, and if some – on purpose – mistakes with the meals were thrown in for humour.
Another very positive element of the show is the food itself, which is plentiful, beautifully presented and of a higher quality than you might expect from a dinner show. There are some good city views from the function room too.
But the most important element is the hours of fun we have. It’s a sociable, joyfully silly experience in which we share a meal and reminisce television comedy history in elegant surroundings.
You can see Fawlty Towers Live Themed Dinner Show at The Fawlty Towers Dining Room at the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton Hotel until 26th August at 13:30 and 19:00. For tickets, please visit www.edfringe.com