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Fawlty Towers theatre review

Tonight is the first showing of the Chameleon Theatre Company’s Fawlty Towers. I got to see it last night at a free “press screening” and a special night to entertain the elderly from our local nursing homes in Chandler’s Ford. Here is my review of the show. I will discuss the show in depth so watch it before reading on.

Basil (Dave Wilkins) was struggling to deal with guests at Fawlty Towers. Mr Walt (Stephen Fenerty; left) and Mr Hutchison (Wayne Bradshaw; right).

Basil (Dave Wilkins) was struggling to deal with guests at Fawlty Towers. Mr Walt (Stephen Fenerty; left) and Mr Hutchison (Wayne Bradshaw; right).

Based on the TV show (which I haven’t seen, yet), the show revolves around Basil Fawlty, an insane and easy-to-annoy hotel manager who hates his guests. He runs the hotel with his wife, Sybil, and Manuel, his waiter, along with other characters. Three episodes are adapted, so I will look at each one individually.

A Touch of Class

In this part, a rich and important person called Lord Melbury visits the hotel, so Basil has to be nice and incredibly polite to him. There are lots of running gags in this one, including a picture being hung up, Manuel’s inability to understand many English words, and a customer who never gets his order.

What makes this part funny is Basil’s inability to function normally. He moves guests out of their table to appease Lord Melbury (who really doesn’t care about Basil’s efforts) and tries to tell Manuel to fetch the wine list despite it being right in front of him. In short, Basil is a control freak, who completely loses it in several comedic scenes in all three sections. My favourite part of this particular section is the running gag of the picture being put up.

Danny (sitting) was after Lord Melbury (rehearsal image).

(Rehearsal image): Danny (sitting, played by Paul Jones) was after Lord Melbury. With Basil (Dave Wilkins) and Manuel (Terry James).

The Hotel Inspectors

This one is my favourite. Basil becomes paranoid about local hotel inspectors and comes under the assumption that Mr Hutchinson, a guest who he thoroughly dislikes, is one of them. Meanwhile a second guest, Mr Walt, is trying to have a normal stay, but is caught up in Basil’s schemes.

The best thing about this is the use of mistaken identity. It is hard to guess which guest is the inspector, and Basil tries to satisfy them both. A hilarious part involves Basil trying to open a wine bottle. It also doesn’t help Basil that mishaps keep happening to him, as his attempts to make the hotel look manageable fall flat. Mr Hutchinson is an incredibly obnoxious and vocal person, which forces Basil to try and silence him in case Mr Walt, who he assumes is a hotel inspector, sees, Basil does this by choking Mr Hutchinson unconscious, which is incredibly funny.

The moment Basil (played by Dave Wilkins) met the Hotel Inspectors.

The moment Basil (played by Dave Wilkins) met the Hotel Inspectors.

The other funny thing is the ending, when Basil thinks he’s won. This is hilarious given the previous events in the episode. I won’t give it away but it is very funny and somewhat satisfying.

Communication Problems

This episode revolves around Mrs Richards whose picky remarks (the room is cold, the bath is too small, the view is invisible and the radio doesn’t work) drive Basil insane. He is also trying to hide his horse betting win money from his wife; however, this plan fails when Mrs Richards complains her money is stolen.

Basil (Dave Wilkins) asked Manuel (Terry James) to help him bet on a horse without wanting Sybil to know.

Basil (Dave Wilkins) asked Manuel (Terry James) to help him bet on a horse without wanting Sybil to know.

The two plots in this work really well together, as they both merge together like any good comedy. This section features my favourite exchange of the whole show, between Basil and Mrs Richards, his guest. The scene is absolutely hilarious.

Mrs Richards (Liz Strevens) is very demanding. With Sybil (Marilyn Dunbar) and Basil (Dave Wilkins).

Mrs Richards (Liz Strevens; centre) was very demanding. With Sybil (Marilyn Dunbar) and Basil (Dave Wilkins).

Basil was distraught. Kerr (Nick Coleman) came to bring him good news.

Basil was distraught. Kerr (Nick Coleman) came to bring him good news.

Overall, this is a great show if you want a night out with lots of laughs. I now want to watch the original show and watch the other episodes of it. The comedy is similar to Monty Python, Blackadder and other British comedies. The use of language and character stereotypes are distinctly British, so if you like British comedies, like me, you’ll love this show.

Director of Fawlty Towers: Gillian Wilkins


About Ben Williams

I am a 17 year old pop culture addict from the south of England. I write about Doctor Who, superheroes, fantasy, films and occasionally dive into the random world of British culture.

7 responses »

  1. Graham Williams

    I am old enough to have seen the original series when it was first broadcast 40 years ago and the humour is still relevant today. I became an instant fan, and I am not sure that I would enjoy the stage show as I suspect I would spend the whole time comparing it (unfavourably) with the original on a line by line basis.

    I would agree with you comparing it to Blackadder, but feel the style is miles away from Monty Python which was more slapstick and episodic. I also think that you are absolutely right in calling it classic British comedy.

    I am glad you enjoyed the show – now watch the original on DVD.

    • The show is practically the same as the original (I’ve seen clips on Youtube). My favourite part not in the theatre version is the “Don’t mention the war” scene. Absolutely hilarious!

      • Graham Williams

        I can also recommend the ‘Basil the rat’ episode.

        My point about not being sure that I would enjoy the stage show was less to do with what was included and more to do with how it was delivered. I have performed Monty Python sketches on stage in front of hard-core fans, so I know just how difficult doing this sort of material can be.

      • And the superlative repartee to “you started it” – “no you did – you invaded Poland”

  2. “hanging gardens of Babylon”, “herds of wildebeest”. Pity I missed the show – I think I would have enjoyed it

  3. Helen Williams

    It’s interesting that you posted this review the same week that a friend of mine went to see an amateur production off Blackadder. This is a really nicely written review – well done. Personally, I think Fawlty Towers would work well on the amateur stage because the original television show was quite ‘amateur’ in the sense that it wasn’t a slick and polished production. I guess there would be a temptation to overact it though – as long as that was avoided, I think it could be quite good.

    I personally prefer Blackadder to Fawlty Towers. I think the humour is darker and more subtle. I often lend my Blackadder DVDs to German friends who want a better understanding of British humour. I wouldn’t suggest they watch Fawlty Towers though, because I think they would laugh at the slapstick, but fail to understand the true multi-faceted comedy of it. Add the fact that a Heil Hitler salute can land you in prison over here, and you have a truly British comedy that is not easily transferable.


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