Sybil, Basil, and Manuel.
These three associated names and characters have been prominent and iconic since the 1970s via the beloved British Comedy TV show, ’Fawlty Towers’. Cut to 2023 and there’s an incredible, interactive, and immersive show as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival titled ‘Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience’. The concept is that audiences become the guests and witness what it would be like to be under Sybil, Basil, and Manuel’s care.
Produced by Interactive Theatre International, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is held during the comedy festival at Stamford Plaza Melbourne and it is a show that has stood the test of time, spanning now for over 25 years. But it’s no surprise, considering that it is such a unique and wonderful experience. And possibly the only time we’d ever provide a 5-star reviews for what would be in real life the utmost terrible service.
Upon arriving for dinner, early arrivals are welcomed, shown the bar, and are requested to gather in a waiting room. Once the time ticked over for the show to start, Manuel, Basil, and Sybil slowly made their own ways to the waiting room. Manuel, played by Luke Alleva, was interacting happily with patrons, Basil, played by Matthew Robson, was already shouting orders, and Sybil, played by Eilannin Harris-Black, tries to keep both in line. This is consistent throughout the show.
We are advised by Basil what our table numbers are, and upon entry into the dining room, Manuel attempts to show each group to their tables. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, I was seated at table number 8! With my table consisting of friends, family members and a few friendly strangers, we were all ready and unknowing for what was yet to come.
Food wise, the menu is already on the table, so at least you know what’s coming with your meal. The entrée consisted of roasted tomato and basil soup served with dinner rolls. The main was a roast chicken breast with potato gratin, pepperonata puree, citrus evo tossed green beans and thyme jus. Finally for dessert, we had a red velvet scarlet-coloured layer cake with cream cheese frosting. Delicious!
The menu would vary depending on where the show is as this is a touring show, but for the Stamford Plaza Melbourne – 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival edition, this was the set three-course menu. If you’re like me and not a foodie, you come for the entertainment, and this show is severely entertaining.
The Faulty Towers cast hit the ball running with insanely good improvising and much hilarity. The chaos consisted throughout the night with Manuel putting a ‘roll’ on a plate, Basil losing his marbles frequently, Sybil barking for the nonsense between the two to cease, and the cast visiting every table to interact with excited guests. This could even be as simple as the cast serving you and checking if you’re enjoying your meal. The adlibbing in this whole show is masterful.
Referring to my earlier sentiments of my lucky (or unlucky) table, there was even a moment where Basil searched under our table, only to be caught by his Mrs. while holding ladies’ underwear. Of course, he denied that they were mine and well, you just had to be there!
While the characters remain the same, every show is different and that’s what makes it so special. There were patrons on our table that advised they had seen the show before and love coming back, and it’s something I feel after seeing this that I’d love to do at every comedy festival and make an annual tradition. It didn’t matter if you were a big fan of the show or through this event, would be witnessing these characters for the first time. Regardless, you’re in for a hell of a treat.
Matthew Robson, Eilannin Harris-Black, and Luke Alleva also perfectly embody their characters Basil, Sybil, and Manuel respectively. I can imagine that John Cleese, Prunella Scales, and Andrew Sachs would have been hard acts to follow, but the Australian 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival cast appear to perform these roles effortlessly and with ease. And the best part is, they genuinely to be having just as much fun as you, happily and mischievously interacting with audiences.
Needless to say, Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is fantastic, fun, and is the ultimate dinner and show experience where you can have both and be a part of the show too. I am now a happily converted fan and will need to check out the TV series that the experience is inspired by. I love this show and I’ll definitely be back the next time it comes to Melbourne.
Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience is part of the 2023 Melbourne International Comedy Festival until April 23rd. It then goes on a national tour.
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