The best bad meal in London: the Faulty Towers Dining ExperienceReview
In a departure from our usual operagoing schedule, we paid homage to our current English home by taking in the Faulty Towers Dining Experience. If you’re not familiar, Fawlty Towers is a 1970s BBC comedy series starring John Cleese and Prunella Scales, about the namesake hotel they run and the hilarious hijinks with guests and staff alike.
The Faulty Towers Dining Experience (subtly “misspelled”, one assumes for legal reasons) is an interactive night of theatre, where guests sit down to a three-course meal, hosted by Basil and Sybil, and served by the infamous waiter “from the continent,” Manuel.
It’s an evening full of scripted sketches and impressive improvisation alike, all three characters constantly interacting with the guests. Diners were scolded for “hanky panky” at the table, reprimanded for taking too long to eat their soup, and they made room under the table for hiding Basils. Manuel caused wave after wave of eye rolls with his hilarious lost-in-translation antics, and the simmering domestic dispute between Basil and Sybil was anything but subtle.
The only strains of music came at the end of the show, where the infamous closing-credit music from the TV show encouraged real-life applause from the dinner guests. It’s certainly a far cry from the Royal Opera, yet we couldn’t help but crave a similar setting for an operatic night out.
As more and more opera companies look to smaller venues, opting for intimate over grand, it seems an easy next step to a dinner-theatre opera. Perhaps with the exception of Die Fledermaus, it might be tricky to find a show that, as a whole, works well in a dining experience; but the concept of improv-opera is an enticing idea. There’s essentially an aria for any occasion, and with enough imagination (and with the help of someone like “transladaptation” expert, Joel Ivany) it could be a riot to combine an opera gala with improv acting.
The Faulty Towers Dining Experience is totally fun. If you like the show, you’ll love riling up Basil and exchanging passive-aggressive compliments with Sybil. And if you’re simply a theatre fan, it’s constantly impressive to see actors at work, amid the countless variables that come with a new sitting of dinner guests each night. Our only regret is that they didn’t serve Waldorf salad.
If you’re in the London area, it’s a great pick. Find out more right here.