Ever wondered what it would be like to dine at Fawlty Towers?

By Senay Boztas
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:37

You can mention the war if you like, but just don't ask for more butter. Because if you do, your waiter, Manuel, will find an unsuspecting female diner and proceed to head-butt her. Welcome to Faulty Towers: the Dining Experience – a real-life night with Basil, his wife Sybil and the English-mangling Spanish waiter who are abusing audiences at the Edinburgh Festival.

Here, in the B'est Restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh, diners can feel part of a 13th episode of John Cleese's drama, which was inspired by the Monty Python actor's experiences in a Scottish hotel.

The show "stars" three impersonators of Basil, Sybil and Manuel who roam through the restaurant, taking their comedy to the tables, and occasionally making such a large scene that everyone is involved.

If you ask for more salt, you will get a bundle of salt in paper (salt and pepper). Then Basil – whose manhandling of Manuel has won newspaper plaudits for the most convincing random comedy violence – stabs him with a fork, with much punning along "you fork me" lines. Manuel, asked to wait on the tables, stands in the centre of a set of diners and does his matador impression. Meanwhile, there is plenty of running through the restaurant when Manuel mishears the word "sapphire".

Sybil, amid ear-piercing shouts of "Ba-sil!" tells us that she brought back her shoes from Spain – and got a much better bargain than Basil, who brought back the hapless waiter.

A couple of real waiters, meanwhile, do a sterling job of getting people fed, watered and the meals cleared. Dinner, and the show, is brought to a close with the foul-smelling spray of a fire extinguisher and general comic pandemonium.

Interactive Theatre Australia, which originally developed the mainly improvised show for corporate events, said that for between £25 and £37 (depending on whether they require breakfast, lunch or dinner), people can enjoy fishing the chef's false teeth out of their tomato soup, catching bread rolls, and stroking the hamster – or is it a rat? – that Manuel (played by Tony Nixon) keeps in his pocket.

Although the show avoids quoting from Fawlty Towers – which in a British Film Institute poll was once voted the best television show of all time – there are references to well-loved episodes, with a fire drill, the astonishingly accurate Basil (Nigel Bell) attempting to place a secret bet on a race, and some exaggerated goose-stepping. The food, audiences are grateful to discover, is genuine, and edible.

The creative director Alison Pollard-Mansergh, who also plays Sybil, said: "You need to have the food so that the audience can experience the mayhem, and people are loving the fact that they feel part of the '13th episode'."

The show is just one of a number of fringe events tempting audiences with a spot of dinner. Chris Neill, a comedian regularly heard on BBC Radio 4's Just a Minute, is performing Chris Neill's Got a Bun in the Oven, lauded as one of the best comedy acts this year by one critic.He actually cooks for his audience, with the help of the London restaurant St John.

Death By Chocolate is an interactive murder mystery with chocolate tasting. The show, developed in Melbourne and Adelaide last year, sold out before the run even started and in 18 performances will get through 325 bars of luxury chocolate and 2,700 truffles.

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