Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience
Willingly paying for bad service, delighting in plates crashing to the floor and drinks being spilled, are rather odd concepts. Yet, more than 40 people happily shelled out over £50 for an incompetent waiter, a rude manager and his distressingly and witheringly loud wife. Where else could we be, but in a re-incarnation of John Cleese’s classic Fawlty Towers?
Nationally and globally acclaimed, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience has now come to London, to the Torquay Suite of the Charing Cross Hotel. A decadent candle-lit staircase takes you to the Trafalgar bar where awful quality wine is served, a 2012 Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Tepid, sickly and almost glutinous, undoubtedly it fell within the confines of a Fawlty Towers appropriate drink – except that you have to pay for it.
With the bar in full swing, between jovial shouts and laughter, an air of excitement spread across the room.
Dressed in an over-sized tweed ensemble, Basil Fawlty had entered the room. With a slick black comb-over, receding hairline (which on closer inspection had been shaved) and a slug-sized moustache, it was as if John Cleese himself had arrived.
“Manuel!” he shouted again, pushing the customers out of the way, in his search for the language-challenged, diminutive Spaniard. The interaction between cast and audience had begun.
A pair of dentures that had gone walkabout turned up in a woman’s soup, the hunt for Manuel’s rat along with a matador solo from the Spaniard (on top of a table) evolved around the main course and a vast set of briefs worked as an appetiser for pudding. It really was like – as the team suggest it to be – the 13th episode of the hit comedy.
The repartee between the three was fantastic and their characters utterly convincing. From Basil’s perfect comic violence towards Manuel (which included a fair few head-bashing incidents) to his blatant and hyperbolic fear of his dragon wife Sybil, from Sybil’s endearing and frustrated tone with foreigner Manuel, to her speedy, lengthy and fearsome monologues to Basil, the impersonations of the relationships between the Faulty management were both eye-wateringly funny and historically apt.
In terms of food, there’s no denying that it was very poor. After the simple yet tasty leek and potato soup starter, things got progressively worse. The main was chicken breast that had clearly been cooked well in advance and then left in a warming oven and was as dry as your mouth on a particularly bad hangover. This was served with a hard lump of unseasoned mashed potato, Bisto-esque gravy, spinach and overdone green beans; it really was foul. A vanilla cheesecake pudding was also decidedly weak.
However, if the food had been Michelin star quality, or even just very good, it would actually be detrimental to the evening. It would detract from why you are actually there, and from the play that you have signed up to being a part of: Faulty Towers: Dining Experience where great food does not come into play.
Food is a by-product of the night, a secondary thought, a prop; the night is about Basil, Sybil and Manuel, and with that in mind you won’t leave disappointed. The only disappointment you’ll feel is when the trio leave and The Dining Experience comes to a close. Willingly paying for bad service, for 120 minutes with these characters, is a phenomenon that you just might get used to.