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Theatre review: Fawlty Towers - Live


Fawlty Towers – Live seamlessly merges several episodes of the original show, reminding us of so much that was endearing about the original. To treat it as merely a sentimental trip back to the celebrated comedy series, however, would be to overlook the freshness and the quality of performances brought to it by the current cast.

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John Cleese oversaw the Australian rehearsals of a script that he adapted from the BBC series co-written with then-wife Connie Booth. The result is an amalgam of some of the best moments from those episodes, particularly centering on the fear of a visit by inspectors to Basil Fawlty’s Torquay hotel, Fawlty Towers.

It also features a sub-plot with the terrifying, deaf Mrs. Richards and a successful racing bet that Basil does not want his wife, Sybil, to know about. Of course, there is more to turn Basil’s life into a fevered mess, much of it stemming from his own ineptitude or arrogance.

The casting is superb, both for physical likenesses and for characterisation. Perhaps the most daunting roles are those that demand exaggerated physical acting – the hotel owner Basil (Stephen Hall), Spanish waiter Manuel (Syd Brisbane), and guest ‘the Major’ (Paul Bertram). While all three are exemplary in this respect, it is the timing and movement of Hall and Bertram that most rings true. Initially, Hall’s voice didn’t seem to match that of Cleese, but perhaps that is an unfair expectation, and it certainly became less an issue as the show progressed.

Aimee Horne captures the look and sound of Polly beautifully, while Blazey Best (who also gets to seize audience attention strikingly in the opening seconds) really makes the role of Sybil her own. Deborah Kennedy is formidable as Mrs. Richards.

The set economically presents the foyer and dining room as well as an upstairs bedroom. The whole is styled true to the period.

The audience may have anticipated many of the great lines and the progress of the story but that does not detract from the pleasure of seeing Fawlty’s plans come undone yet again.

Considering how often the DVDs of the TV series are replayed in homes, it behoves fans to support theatre arts and enjoy this delightful live adaptation.

Fawlty Towers – Live

For a limited time at her Majesty’s Theatre

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