By Diana Condolo
Do you fancy dining in Faulty Towers? Would you like to be put at the mercy of grasshopper-like Basil, get social with his perfectly coifed wife Sybil while Manuel scurries round and round much like his pet rat on the loose? We thought it was a splendid idea! So we jumped at the chance when invited to Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, which has long last been imported to Toronto via London’s West End.
While the British series ran only for two seasons in the mid-to-late 1970s, John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers has had an incredible impact on comedy. It is one of the best-known and most-loved British comedy series. Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is an unofficial tribute to the legendary 70s sitcom; they’ve captured the spirit of the program quite well.
After being ushered into the Sony Centre basement that doesn’t resemble the Fawlty Towers hotel in most ways ─ there are just a few knickknacks placed to remind you of the hotel entrance and dining room ─ we soon forget the less than glamorous setting with the arrival of the trio doing comic vignettes around us as we dine.
We are seated in tables of about ten people so, unless you have come with a large group, you’ll be seated with strangers who have the potential to become friends. There is nothing like humour to bring out the friendly side of people and if you haven’t struck up a conversation with someone across the table, Sibyl has a knack for warming things up. We struck it up with my neighbour so well that we remained to chat well after the show ended.
We ordered the vegetarian and the vegan options. The three-course meal consists of a nice butternut squash soup, a very lovely grilled Portobello, eggplant zucchini tower with sundried tomato glazed tofu (for the non-vegetarian folks they offered chicken with carrots, green beans and mashed potatoes), and a chocolate-topped shortbread dessert which was okay. I recommend the veggie plate – most of the other diners at my table were eyeing our dishes. You must make advanced requests for any dietary restrictions.
The cast has to spread their performance across all the tables and somehow manage to engage everyone. The actors are not always performing so it is advisable to be prepared to make conversation. All tables receive attention from the comic trio and some of us received more than our fair share of attention. Vegans, bald folk and those who don’t finish their meals are sitting ducks in their comedy target practice. But it is loads of full to be made fun of (I hope that is not just my perspective) and engaging to be part of the show.
Sybil is really quite chatty and accommodating as a hostess. I met up with her before the show and I asked her to pose with me for a photograph to which she graciously acquiesced.
If you are a fan of Fawlty Towers, I hope you’ll see the show as Basil, Sybil and Manuel are quite droll channeling their warped British sitcom characters. It is as close to stepping into an episode of Fawlty Towers as you’ll likely get. It is quite a blast even for those who’ve never seen the original show. Everyone and their great aunt had some great laughs.
Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience runs until May 10, 2015 at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $74.70 to $163.19 and can be purchased online.