My experiences living in Cape Town and travelling in Africa

A Faulty dining experience

I am not a die-hard fan but I did watch several episodes of Fawlty Towers growing up and think John Cleese is hilarious, so I was excited when Guy McDonald invited me to join him for Faulty Towers The Dining Experience which forms part of the inaugural FNB Variété Festival from 6th-20th of October 2012.

The venue was The Villa at the Cape Sun Hotel, a perfect location for what was to unfold. We were having a drink and chatting when Basil Fawlty appeared. He was hard to miss, being close to 7 ft and a remarkable resemblance to John Cleese in the original TV show. Then I noticed Sybil standing by the ticket desk with an old phone wedged between her left ear and shoulder chatting away while scurrying between all the other guests, collecting empty glasses, was Manuel the waiter.

We weren’t even inside and the show had begun. Basil called for Manuel to bring out the hor d’oeuvres but Manuel’s English isn’t very good and so he replied quizzically ‘Orders?” Basil a little frustrated repeats “hor d’oeuvres” but Manuel still only manages to hear “Orders” and isn’t sure what he’s supposed to do. So Basil simplifies the request to “Nuts” and Manuel finally gets it ‘Oh, yes the nuts. I go” and disappears round the corner. A little while later he returns simply carrying a tray of nuts and weaving between the guests. Basil notices that Manuel is just carrying the nuts around and not offering them to the guests. “No, no, no. Manuel you have to serve the nuts. Serve the nuts.” Manuel nods and Basil continued greeting the guests. I then watched Manuel who proceeded to pick up a single nut, throw it into the air and swat it with his hand as if he was serving in a tennis match. Just as Basil noticed this, and before he could do anything about it, Sybil was off the phone and asking him where the list of diners was. He’d of course forgotten that he’d put in his pocket, but having located it, we were each called by name and told which table we were on and the dinner could begin.

From the get go you are a part of the show and as the soup arrived, the shenanigans started. It was announced that  the chef had lost something and we all had to check our bowls. The well-meaning Manuel was all to happy to vigorously scoop through several bowls  in an attempt to help the search and soon shrieks were heard as a set of dentures was discovered. It really did feel like we were dining in the worst run hotel around. The action was non stop and superbly delivered. The were some Fawlty Tower gurus that night who clearly got each and every reference from the series but even if you weren’t familiar with the show you would find it entertaining.

Improvised by experts and totally interactive, only a third of the show is scripted, so the production stays fresh at each performance. On Saturday night there was an incident with the fire extinguisher and a man from Belleville, who was believed to be German but it was one of those jokes that retelling just wouldn’t do justice to – you had to be there.

It is an interactive show and I got to experience this just after the main course when Manuel, who had been ordered by Basil to find his pet ‘hamster’ (or rat) that had escaped, came climbing over the balustrade and darted under our table only to emerge with a pair of ladies knickers. When Basil Fawlty asked who they belonged to, Manuel simply pointed at me; shaking my head was about all I could manage between the hysterical laughter. And just when I thought the spotlight was off me, Basil order Manuel to give them back and continue the search for the rat. Manuel then proceeded to take off my shoe and attempt to redress me in the knickers when Sybil strode out of the kitchen to see what all the fuss was about and the next thing Basil ended up with the knickers on his head and I snapped this classic Fawlty Towers image.

It was one gag after another, with superb performances from all of the characters and one of the funniest shows I’ve seen this year. Whether you’ve watched all twelve of the original episodes over and over until your VHS tape broke or never even heard of the TV show this is a dining experience not to be missed.

Tickets for the two-hour show and three-course meal are R350. To book visit Computicket online or call 0861 915 8000.

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