Basil, Sybil and Manuel have been household names for decades, and that little fictional, farcical hotel has brought laughter to the masses since the 1970s. Inspired by the real Gleaneagles Hotel in Torquay, Fawlty Towers is timeless and hilarious, and now you can pretend you’re right there with John Cleese and Prunella Scales whilst you eat your tea at Hotel Brooklyn.
Every show is different for better or for worse, and there’s just so much joy in making people laugh
Designed to be an immersive and ‘deliciously entertaining’ production, the experience celebrates great food and the iconic BBC show with a cast of West End actors and a whole load of improvisation. Anything can happen, and it usually does. There’s mishaps, audience participation, and the promise of a good hearty meal thrown in for good measure.
As the unique show celebrates its 25th birthday, we had a chat with cast members Jack Baldwin (The Play that Goes Wrong, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and Suzanna Hughes (Jeff Wayne’s ‘War Of The Worlds’ and Sky 1’s ‘Thorne’) about some of their inspirations, their favourite bits from the show, and the importance of having a good giggle.
They are back this December for their unique improv experience at one of Manchester’s coolest NYC-inspired hotels, so cop one quick and keep reading for some behind the scenes scoops.
Big boots to fill
Fawlty Towers was named the greatest ever British TV sitcom by the Radio Times, and everyone has said “why don’t you have another vat of wine, dear?” at some point during a family party - so Jack and Suzanna inevitably have big boots to fill whilst playing Basil and Sybil.
I asked the actors about which elements of the show the dining experience stays true to, and Jack explains that “we like to stay true to the human side of things, because that’s what people relate to in the original show. It’s the frustration, the snobbery, the kind of social awkwardness that made it feel so real and hilarious and we were keen to keep those things as accurate as possible.”
The cast want the keep the spirit of the original cast very much alive, and Suzanna adds that “the characters already have their individual personalities, and we get to add to that which is a lot of fun.” There’s the added pressure of playing such iconic and quotable protagonists, but both Jack and Suzanna add that “whether it’s somebody who’s a massive fan coming to watch the show, or someone who’s coming in fresh, we get to pick all of the best bits from John and Prunella’s characters and also experiment with the roles as we see fit.” We’re expecting lots of shouting and spillages.
Jack also adds that “part of the show’s timeless appeal is its use of classic farce, and that’s the kind of humour that transcends and stays evergreen. Some of our favourite gags and techniques from the show are still there, because they’re still just as hilarious as they were back then.”
Both Jack and Suzanna have eclectic portfolios that range from Shakespearean tragedies to Channel 4 comedies, but the element of improvisation associated with the Faulty Towers dining experience is something that excites them both.
Jack highlights that “because the role isn’t scripted, and everything takes place in a live setting, it makes the whole performance fresh every night. You never know what you’re going to get, and its not like being in a normal theatrical production where you say the same lines every night.”
Suzanna echoes that this is “part of the reason we’ve all been a part of this for so long. I love seeing the joy on people’s faces when Sybil first walks into the room, and you can see them getting excited about what’s going to happen next. Every show is different for better or for worse, and there’s just so much joy in making people laugh”.
The cast react to real life scenarios in the show, interact with the audience directly, and the same joy that you get from re-watching those 12 legendary episodes over and over again is played out right in front of you.
Big love for Manchester and a foodie focus
Suzanna has fond memories of dancing her nights away in the Hacienda, and emphasises that it’s really exciting to be back in Manchester because “as a city, Manchester loves to laugh.” Manchester is an art-filled city in many ways, and immersive dining experiences have been added to our ever-evolving bow with pop-ups like proving to be a roaring success with Northern audiences.
In terms of the foodie focus of the show (of course we asked about the food) Jack explains that “the food is a prop for the show for sure, but you will be served a really tasty three course dinner at the same time. People can expect to feel like they’re coming to dine at a restaurant, but with the added bonus of laughing from start to finish. Hotel Brooklyn is a really exciting venue too, so guests are in for a treat.”
The food will come in the form of a 70’s inspired three course meal, and as the Regional General Manager at Hotel Brooklyn adds “this show is lots of fun and I’m sure it’ll bring plenty of laughs to the diners…and of course it’s a great name for the event as every hotel and restaurant gets accused of being Fawlty Towers, so here’s the proof.”
The Faulty Towers dining experience is coming back to Hotel Brooklyn on Tuesday 5th and Wednesday 6th December and tickets are available online for the upcoming performances. You can expect a “2 hour tour de force of gags and shambolic service” as Basil, Sybil and Manuel serve a three course meal with added chaos. As the cast emphasised, you should “expect the unexpected”.
Hotel Brooklyn, 59 Portland St, Manchester M1 3HP
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