INTERNATIONAL COMEDY sensation, The Faulty Towers Dining Experience, is making a welcome return to Galway as part of the Bulmers Comedy Festival to unleash its trademark blend of comic mayhem on diners and theatre-goers.
The show was a huge hit at the comedy festival last year and looks sure to be one of the hottest tickets at this year’s event.
Featuring new material, all the best gags from the TV series, and a three-course meal, this Experience is a loosely-scripted tribute to the much-loved TV series. The fun starts as the audience are called to be seated in the restaurant of the Faulty Towers hotel, and it hurtles along as Sybil, Basil, and Manuel serve the meal.
Basil is manic, Sybil domineering, and Manuel – of course – is hopelessly language-challenged. All your favourite scenes from the series are brought to life while you enjoy a fine dining experience. Everything that can go wrong for Basil and co does, in a brilliantly orchestrated two-hours of achingly funny comic lunacy – just don’t mention the war!
The Faulty Towers Dining Experience was premiered in Australia in 1997 and since then the show has become an international smash. It will be seen in 15 countries this year and comes to Galway on the back of its fifth consecutive sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe.
Ahead of Faulty Towers’s Galway return, actress Donna Gray, who takes the role of Sibyl, shared her thoughts on the show. I began by asking her why, given all she has to put up with from her impossible husband, Sibyl still stays with Basil.
“Sybil does actually love Basil,” Gray replies with a chuckle. “She loves the control she has over him and loves where she lives but she has to find her own life to keep sane so that tends to be socialising with her best friend Audrey.”
Gray admits she was an ardent fan of the TV show long before she landed this role in the stage version; “I grew up watching Fawlty Towers; I’m a huge fan and I love the show, it’s the most streamlined comedy I’ve ever seen, the way it’s put together and the stories are all intertwined and how they reach the conclusion, it’s genius.
“We pay homage to nearly every episode in our show, certainly the ones people will remember but it is very cleverly put together; you will find the occasional hamster or rat popping up, Basil trying to place a bet in secret and various other references to the TV show.”
Gray worked for 15 years as a dancer during which she regularly worked with comics like Bobby Davro and Jim Davidson. She then retrained at drama school and, earlier this year, landed the role of Sibyl.
“I got the job in April and Alison Pollard Mansergh, the original stage Sibyl, then trained me up in the Netherlands for two weeks,” she tells me. “Ali told me she had never known anyone grasp the character so quickly and I was ready to go out on the road straight away. This is my first long tour with the show, I’ve done about 15 shows now and it’s been fantastic so far; it’s a part well suited to me.
“I’ve never known anything like it,” Gray enthuses of Faulty Towers. “It’s so unique; the great thing about it is that people get to socialise as well as see a show. They come along with family or friends and they become part of the show without it being in any way intimidating even though they do get picked on by Basil.
“The audience are part of the show, as if they were on the set of Fawlty Towers sitting in the restaurant. And the arc of the story has such momentum that by the time you get to the end of the two hour show people are just blown away by it, it’s incredible how it works, by the end of it they are hooked. I’ve been blown away by it myself, I love the whole experience.”
The Faulty Towers Dining Experience is at the Menlo Park Hotel from Saturday October 27 to Monday 29 at 7.30pm nightly. Tickets are €45, inclusive of a three-course meal. Tickets are on sale through www.bulmersgalwaycomedyfestival.com and www.Roisindubh.net, as well as in Xtra-Vision stores, OMG on Shop Street, and most venues.