Faulty Towers the Dining Experience, Oaks Melbourne on Market Hotel {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Theatre Experience Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

With the rising cost of well, everything, the classic evening out of ‘dinner and a show’ is slowly drifting out of reach. So, why not combine both activities into one and attend a show where dinner, or in my case, lunch, is part of the experience?

Well, you are in luck because there is one production that has been doing this for over 25 years around the world, and it began right here in Australia! Faulty Towers the Dining Experience is a tribute to the original television series of the same name (although spelt differently for obvious reasons). The TV show first aired on the BBC in 1979 and was set at a dysfunctional hotel where anything that could go wrong, usually does. The dining experience brings the television show to life over a hectically hilarious 120 minutes.

This was my third time attending this show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, but I was still excited. For one, the venue is different, this year moving to Oaks Melbourne on Market Hotel on Market Street in Melbourne’s CBD. And second, you never know who you are going to get as the cast until the show begins.

As we entered the foyer area, we had our names checked off the list and there is a bar with a wide selection of drinks. There is even an outdoor garden area where you could have a drink or just chat whilst you wait to enter the dining room. Soon enough, Basil Faulty, performed by Jed McKinney, began to round up the patrons in the foyer, even venturing into the men’s bathroom to shout for those inside to hurry up!

Manuel, portrayed by Luke Alleva, joins Basil to assist. In classic Faulty Towers comedic style, Basil orders Manuel to collect the glasses and seat the guests. So, Manuel collects sunglasses and reading glasses from the patrons and begins to seat them on the floor. Of course, this is not what Basil meant, but I was already laughing, and we had barely started!

One by one, the guests were called from the list, and we were eventually seated in the dining room, ready for our service to begin. We were also introduced to Sybil Faulty, portrayed by Monique Lewis Reynolds, who demanded that the bread rolls be served. Of course, Manuel takes it literally and starts serving the rolls to the tables like they are tennis balls! These shenanigans continued throughout the whole lunch service. From fire drills, food contamination, literally waiting on tables, horny bulls and much more. But there is one thing you need to keep in mind – no table is safe!

I was seated with my partner on a table closer to the edge of the room, with another group that all knew each other. One stated before the dining service began that we might be safe as we were on the outskirts, and oh, how wrong they were. If anything, it made us more of a target as our table was the closest to the kitchen. One of their group had an ongoing saga with Basil about a fork that was so funny, she had tears in her eyes.

All three performers are equally as brilliant in their respective roles. Candice Taylor as Sybil Faulty has that high-pitched, almost annoying British accent down to a tee. Close your eyes and you can picture Prunella Scales as the original Sybil. It was my first-time seeing Taylor in the role and she is perfect.

Another new experience for me was witnessing Jed McKinney as Basil Faulty, who embodies the character fully. Not just his voice or his stern yet constantly frustrated facial expressions, but the way he carries himself is a flawless recreation of the iconic character. But it was the way that McKinney interacted with the patrons that really impressed me. It could just be a snap reaction to something that a patron said, or a constant call back to a joke he made earlier in the show, like the whole fork saga. Jed McKinney is not just a brilliant performer, he is a fantastic comedic performer and impersonator.

To say I am lucky to have experienced the same performer as Manuel three years in a row might just be an understatement. I recall the first time I saw this show and was introduced to Luke Alleva, and I was blown away by his portrayal of the quirky Spaniard that, due to his language barrier, took some things a little too literal. Just wait until you see him put a ‘roll on plate’. And even after three years of seeing Alleva in the same role, I am still just as impressed as I was the first time. Alleva’s portrayal of Manuel is flawless.

The venue this time, Oaks Melbourne on Market Hotel, has its pros and cons. For one, the space is larger, and can fit in more tables and therefore sell more tickets. Always a bonus. But there are these two giant pillars that block the view across the space. However, the cast lean into this by using it as a hiding space or find other ways to work it into the show. An added bonus to this new space is that there are multiple exits from the room. In the past few years, the previous venue only had two exits but I counted no less than four at this new location. This allowed for the cast to exit through one door and enter via another, ‘Pink Panther’ style. It kept me on edge because I never knew where they would be coming from next!

The food, well, it is not the best. Not that I really expected much from a large function style setting. Classic three course meal of soup, chicken and veg, and a simple slice of cake for dessert. I didn’t really enjoy any of the food, and some of those at our table didn’t even get a slice of cake at the end. And whilst this is a ‘dining experience’ I felt the food was the last thing on my mind, just an added bonus.

So, does Faulty Towers the Dining Experience hold up to expectations third time running? Hell yes! This experience is perfect for friends, family, a date, a birthday, anniversary or celebration and I can’t wait to experience it next year! It doesn’t matter if you are an annual repeat offender or have never been before. Faulty Towers the Dining Experience is always fresh, exciting, hilarious and a good time. With over 25 years around the world, they are definitely doing something right!

With sessions at the 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival running until Sunday the 14th of April, Faulty Towers the Dining Experience is one show you do not want to miss! There’s also a program book available that you can purchase prior to the show. It is the first time they’ve had a program book available and it’s a really nice souvenir that you can take home with you.

Interactive Theatre also has two other productions at this year’s festival. Confetti and Chaos and a children’s production titled Signor Baffo.

To book your own attendance to the live recreation of the classic television series, please visit:
https://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2024/shows/faulty-towers-the-dining-experience
https://www.interactivetheatre.com.au/our-productions/faulty-towers-the-dining-experience
https://www.instagram.com/inttheatreint

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