At the start of every week, the Raddison Blu in Bloomsbury is your standard 4* London Hotel, but from Thursday to Sunday it is home to a restaurant straight out of a 1970’s British sitcom, quite literally.
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is a critically acclaimed immersive theatrical experience created by Australian company ‘Interactive Theatre International’ as an unofficial tribute to John Cleese’s beloved 70’s TV show. Guests are invited to join Basil and Sybil Faulty, and their (not so) trusty Spanish waiter Manuel, for an evening of comedy, mayhem and maybe even some food – if you’re lucky!
After ordering our drinks from the bar, we made our way through to a pre-dinner waiting room, where we were pleasantly surprised to find the show already starting as Basil, Sybil and Manuel slipped seamlessly into the crowd.
Basil, after a rather unsuccessful attempt at instructing Manuel to offer around a plate of nuts, moved on to reading aloud a list of guests and sending each group through to be seated at their respective tables, along with a few sarcastic remarks and under-the-breath criticisms to get the crowd into the Faulty Towers spirit.
We were sat down at a large communal round table along with several other guests, however, with the performance taking place around us all night, there was barely any time to get to know our table mates after the inital greetings.
A lot of thought and planning clearly went into making the entire experience as close to the real thing as possible, which was evident in the smallest of details such as the wonky table numbers.
Only a third of the performance is scripted each evening, which means that the rest of the show is completely improvised. Everything flowed so brilliantly throughout the evening that it was hard to distinguish between the planned and impromptu.
As well as a few short sketches resembling scenes from the original show, the cast spent much of the evening circulating around the tables and interacting with guests, making for a very immersive experience.
The actors had the voices and mannerisms of the original cast so well mastered that it was easy to forget that we weren’t really in an episode of the iconic BBC sitcom.
The relationship between Basil and Manuel was as strained as ever, with over-the-top slapstick comedy which had my face hurting from laughter by the end of the night. Whilst Sybil was extremely quick-witted and kept up spontaneous banter with guests throughout the evening’s festivities.
The food itself was simple but tasty; soup followed by chicken and vegetables and finally a sweet fruity dessert with coffee. I was quite surprised to find that Waldorf Salad wasn’t on the evening’s menu!
Each course was served in a rather uncoordinated and slap-dash manner, including Manuel hurtling bread rolls across the room at guests at one point. Even with the real waiting staff working to offset the shenanigans, Basil, Sybil and Manuel ensured that nothing quite ran smoothly all night. Well, if we were fed Michelin star dishes with 5* service it wouldn’t be Faulty Towers now, would it!?
The Final Verdict:
I can hardly express how highly I rate Faulty Towers The Dining Experience! An extremely clever concept which combines dinner and outstanding theatre into one great evening. The cast have clearly worked hard to master the individual characters as well as they have, and the improvisation and interaction with guests showcases their extraordinary talent even further.
At first glance, tickets may seem a little on the pricey side, but when you think of it as a 3 course dinner and front row seats to a critically acclaimed show, the experience is well worth the price. Perfect for a special occasion, whether it’s just 2 of you or a whole group.
My one recommendation for anyone going would be to re-watch a few episodes of the TV show leading up to the evening of your experience. This will give you a true appreciation for the standard of the performance.