By Freya Parr
A prerequisite for partaking in the two-hour slapstick marathon that is the Faulty Towers Dining Experience is a large vat of Merlot and a penchant for the ridiculous. It does what it says on the tin – guests are treated to a three-course meal, accompanied by superb actors embodying the characters of Mr and Mrs Fawlty, alongside disastrous waiter Manuel.
It is not a Fringe event for the faint-hearted. Anybody expecting a pleasant, relaxed meal and perhaps some light entertainment on the side will be immensely disappointed. It is two hours of intense joke-upon-joke exhaustion. Suffice to say, the majority of the guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, but it has to be said that this was predominantly down to the immense quantity of wine they were putting away. A number of us found ourselves somewhat deafened by the full-bellied cackles coming from certain overzealous audience members.
The Fringe rendition of this dining experience took place in the basement bar of Rigby’s Bar & Grill in the CBD. If it’s restaurant-standard food you are hoping for, this is not the event for you. With a mediocre pumpkin soup to start, stodgy school dinner style chicken and potatoes for the main course, and average mass-produced chocolate cake for dessert, it is far from a fine dining experience. It does unfortunately beg the question as to why the price of the ticket is so high – a question you never want hanging over your head in fringe theatre. With no alcohol included in the meal, and an incredibly basic setting, the $100 ticket seems spectacularly excessive. It reflects the dining room of Fawlty Towers all too well!
However, the food is ultimately not the main attraction, and the performers succeed in bringing the BBC characters to life with uncanny resemblance. Paul O’Neill assumes the role of Basil Fawlty with real comedic value, even recreating classic Fawlty Towers moments such as the Hitler walk with uncanny similarity to John Cleese.
Generally the actors did not fall out of character at all, except for a few slips in accent from Karen Hamilton playing Sybil Fawlty. The numerous times when Mr Fawlty hit Manuel were also slightly stilted and obviously fake, but this wasn’t helped by the seating arrangement encircling the action.
For fans of long stints of slapstick comedy and with bottomless pockets of cash, this is a perfect evening out. Otherwise, I would recommend buying the BBC box set and a takeaway from your local Indian and saving your pennies. A memorable experience, but highly overpriced for what is on offer in comparison to the other bargains at Fringe World.
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience runs for the duration of Fringe.