Dinner theatre is something I usually try to avoid. If I want to dine out, I’ll dine out. If I want to see a show, I’ll see show. Sometimes consecutively; rarely simultaneously. But the familiarity and fun to be had at the Faulty Towers Dining Experience automatically had me saying yes to a recent invite.
The ironic thing is, while some may consider dinner theatre an old-school art-form, it actually always been fairly progressive. Considering the three ‘i’s – immersive theatre, interactivity with the audience and improvisation – these are three concepts constantly embraced in contemporary theatre, so you could say ye olde style of dinner theatre was way ahead of its time.
But back to the show at hand. Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience sees three actors channelling the spirits of one of entertainment history’s most famous screwed-up crews. Karen Hamilton as Sybil, Paul O’Neill as Basil, and Andy Foreman as Manuel – do a wonderful, uncanny job of emulating the iconic TV personalities.
Right from the get-go, the actors get into their zany roles, mingling with the arriving crowd, offering peanuts (literally) as hors d’oeuvres before leading us to our tables.
Immediately the chaos commences with Manuel just not sure what do with the dinner rolls. Then, just when you think the action is beginning to look a little scripted, some random interruption by a dinner guest sees to it that the actors start dishing out all manner of ad lib.
Slapstick is on the menu, of course, with some classic scenes from the original Fawlty Towers series re-enacted to please die-hard fans in the room.
And speaking of audience, this show draws in one of the most eclectic crowds you’ll see on the fringe festival circuit. Forget fuddy-duddies with blue-rinse hair-dos. I was sitting at a table of 20-somethings who were very much in on the jokes – in fact, they were laughing at the slapstick scenes more than I was.
The bottom line is, the three performers in Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience are more than just good actors. They’re able to carry on a conversation at one table, while keeping an eye on fellow talent to see what they’re up to at table two and three, while also watching out for the nuances of guests on table four to see who best to prey on next. Quite simply, it’s all rather genius. Antonino Tati
‘Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience’ is on at Rigby’s Bar & Bistro, 221 St Georges Terrace until Sunday 19th February as part of Fringeworld 2017. Tickets start from $100 for dinner and show, and are available through www.fringeworld.com.au.