FAWLTY TOWERS is not your average hotel. It is known that one guest had cream poured over his head simply for being mistaken for a hotel inspector while the dead body or another resident was dumped in a laundry basket.
And do not think of asking for a gin and orange, a lemon squash, and a Scotch and water as you may have to wait an hour, raise your voice, and for your troubles be manhandled into the bar by the owner.
So who better to tell us about Fawlty Towers than the hotel’s proprietor Mr Basil Fawlty. I began by asking about some of the above incidents and put it to him that his hotel is a place of utter chaos.
“It’s not chaos!” Mr Fawlty replies. “It’s called typical British, no nonsense, hospitality! I mean the hotel business would be so much better of we didn’t have to put up with customers! If it wasn’t for people in the hotel it would all run perfectly.”
I understand his wife Sybil is the one who manages to keep everything just about running? “I’m sure she would try and tell you that though herself,” Mr Fawlty replies testily, “but that’s a matter of opinion.”
So if he finds it stressful how does he cope with running a hotel? “Alcohol helps,” he states wearily. I ask what food will be on the menu when many Galwegians will visit the Fawltys in October, and am told that while the “duck was off” the menu will be “something edible I suppose!”
Given the strain Mr Fawlty often finds himself under, can I take it that while he might be a broken man by the end of the night, his diners and guests will be highly entertained? “I would suggest that’s odds on..Thank you! Now go away!”
So ends my conversation with the legendary Torquay hotelier (thanks to actor Ron Kelly ) but it gives a taste of what Galway can expect when Interactive Theatre Australia present The Faulty Towers Dining Experience in the Menlo Park Hotel during the October Bank Holiday Weekend as part of the Bulmers Galway Comedy Festival 2011.
ITA began The Faulty Towers Dining Experience 14 years ago and since then it has become enormously popular, enjoying regular tours of Ireland and Britain, appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe, and receiving critical acclaim.
“I loved Fawlty Towers, the television series, but in many ways this live production is even better...Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is ingenious and is, by far, the best comedy show I have ever been to,” raved the Sunday Express. The British Theatre Guide called it “a once in a lifetime dining experience!” while The Irish Times said: “The cast played a blinder... absolutely spot-on.”
The show will see audiences come to the Menlo Park Hotel where the dining room will become the restaurant of Fawlty Towers and they will enjoy a three course meal, with Basil Fawlty (Ron Kelly ), Sybil (Karen Hamilton ), and Manuel (David Sweetman ) waiting on them. Expect anything and every kind of mayhem to happen.
“One-third of the show is scripted and the remaining two-thirds are improvised so no two shows are the same,” Karen Hamilton tells me. “The scripted sections follow parts of the TV series and pays homage to some of the most iconic and best loved scenes from the show, and Manuel’s rat makes an appearance.”
Karen says that she, Ron, and David “live the characters” for the two hours of the show.
“It’s a seat of the pants ride for us and the audience and we give the audience a chance to play along as well,” she says. “We enjoy playing Ireland as Irish audiences take us to strange places we have never been before. At one show a man stuck his bottom out and said ‘It’s my turn now!’ ‘Please put that away and poke it at your own wife!’ I told him.”
Like the hotel created by John Cleese and Connie Booth in the 1970s, anything can happen and usually will.
The Faulty Towers Dining Experience takes place in the Menlo Park Hotel on Sunday October 30 and Monday 31 at 7.45pm. Tickets are €45 which includes a three course meal as well as the show. Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and www.roisindubh.net