The biggest laugh from last week was when Donna Gray (aka Sybil) smashed a serving plate over Basil’s head at Watford Colosseum. Basil learned his lesson!
Chaos has descended on Scotland’s capital every August since 1947 with the arrival of the world’s largest arts festival: the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It has grown every year since: organisers reveal that this year there will be 313 venues, a record 3,314 shows (807 of them free), and 49 countries represented.
Kath Mainland, chief executive of the Fringe, said: “The fact we are the largest festival in the world is a fantastic selling point but what’s also good to talk about is what those numbers mean and the diversity and range of work on offer, the different art forms, and the number of different countries represented and what it means for a performer to take part in a festival like this. It’s an incredibly important arts market, a place for the media to discover new talent and also a place to show your work before a live, loyal, risk-taking audience, without having to wait for an invitation. That’s all just as important as all the numbers.”
Ms Mainland added: “The Fringe is a festival like no other. Completely open access – where artists don’t need to wait for an invitation, where anyone with a story to tell is welcome. Where there’s no curator, no vetting, no barriers. Just incredible talent from almost 50 countries all over the world.”
ITI’s first performances at the Fringe of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience were in 2008. The show has returned – and sold out – every year since. This year ITI is taking a second show too: The Wedding Reception. This brand new immersive comedy premiered at Brighton Fringe and won 5* reviews across the board.
Sybil Faulty invites you…
And so do the characters at The Wedding Reception!
Summer is just around the corner in the UK, so in theory we can put umbrellas away and enjoy beautiful sunsets, barbecues and visits to the seaside. In theory. At time of writing, summer in London is colder than winter in Melbourne – but you get the idea!
There’s just so much to do in June: music festivals start, summer solstice celebrations pop up, Wimbledon tennis to cheer… and coming to meet the Faultys, of course, at heaps of venues both Down Under and ‘Up Over’ (que?). We picked up Sybil’s calendar in the lost-and-found behind Manuel’s travel case, so you can see what she has to say about it all here…
Paul O’Neill, one of our amazing Basils, is part of an exciting new project: a 12 episode sci-fi web series called ‘Nikola Tesla and the End of the World.’
The lowdown: Sophie Clarks is a physicist who builds a strange machine from long lost scientific plans and transports Nikola Tesla to modern day London. Tesla, played by Paul, is the 19th-century Serbian-American inventor who contributed massively to the development of the alternating-current electrical system.
Writer/Director Ian Strang filmed the first four episodes of the series in 2013 and enlisted award-winning songwriter Connie Kaldor to compose the soundtrack.
Strang also created the visual effects and curated the editing. The first four episodes of the series have now been released on the internet, starting on 20 May and finishing today.
As Basil Faulty, Paul has toured extensively, performing in the UK, Ireland, Sri Lanka and Australia – where he won five-star reviews in our first season at Sydney Opera House. He also appears regularly in our London West End venue, The Torquay Suite Theatre at Amba Hotel Charing Cross.
Check out this behind the scene video and find out more about the project:
TripAdvisor has awarded Faulty Towers The Dining Experience the 2015 Certificate of Excellence.
The Certificate is awarded as a direct result of consistently great reviews from TripAdvisor travellers for the show’s residency at Amba Hotel Charing Cross, a venue which itself is top of all London 4* hotels.
We are really proud of this important achievement and would like to thank our fantastic audiences for giving us such great feedback.
Today is the 150th birthday of Amba Hotel Charing Cross! Built in 1865, it has witnessed many of London’s huge and incredible changes and we are honoured to have called it home since 2012.
A little history
When the Charing Cross Railway Company drew up plans for a new terminus on The Strand, it was obvious that they should include a grand hotel to rival those at Euston, Paddington and Kings Cross. Thus was born the Charing Cross Hotel.
Originally designed in sumptuous Franco-Italianate style by E.M. Barry – son of Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the House of Commons – this amazing Grade II listed building has been transformed for the modern age. Yet it retains that sense of refinement and luxury which made it one of the most prestigious places to stay in Victorian London.
– Also in 1865, Barry designed a replica of the Eleanor Cross for the forecourt of the station. The original was built in 1290 as a memorial to Eleanor of Castile, the wife of Edward I. It was demolished in 1647 by the Puritans.
– The site of the original Eleanor Cross – south of Trafalgar Square where the statue of King Charles I stands today – is the spot from where all distances from London are measured.
– It is often thought that Charing is named after Eleanor: ‘chère Reine’ (beloved Queen), but this is an appealing fallacy. The true derivation comes from an earlier, Saxon word ‘cyring’, meaning ‘at the bend of the river’.
– Charing Cross claims to be the site of the first Punch and Judy show to be held in England. Originally from Italy, the puppet show has become a national institution and a story familiar to children all over the UK.
Faulty Towers and Amba Hotel Charing Cross
Situated in the true heart of London, the hotel perfectly represents England’s culture and history. We’re really proud to have been performing the show there every week since 2012.
There are special events during the whole weekend 15-17 May, including a menu featuring 1865-style food, a Victorian-style photo booth to record events, room discounts, giveaways, and competition prizes.
And watch out for some action today from 4pm featuring Basil, Sybil and Manuel too!
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience began in Brisbane on 24 April 1997. From humble beginnings it now features nine teams of performers and has just finished a debut performance in Singapore – the 26th country it has been to.
To celebrate this special day, what better than to talk to Alison Pollard-Mansergh, the woman who is the driving force behind the company and show.
Hi Ali, have you always wanted to run your own business?
APM: No! My intention had simply been to make some acting work for myself. I’d moved to Brisbane, Australia from New Zealand, and when I couldn’t get an agent because of my New Zealand accent, I decided to do something that would keep me going for a few months while I developed an Australian one. I met Andy Foreman, a really talented performer and writer, and along with a third performer, we started working together.
You’ve created this show from nothing and it’s now 18 years old and performed around the world: how have you managed to have raise five children and survive two bouts of cancer at the same time?
APM: I laugh a lot! I’m not a wonder-woman just a really normal person who has had a huge amount of support. My husband has encouraged me from day one. Every single person who has worked in the company has contributed to the success of the show. I could never have done it alone.
Why did you think of doing a Fawlty Towers tribute show, specifically?
APM: I knew it would work, plus I could already do the Sybil laugh!
Did the Dining Experience idea come up at the beginning or did it come up later on?
APM: It was always based around a dinner. Between 1992 and 1996 I worked in a corporate theatre company in New Zealand, and many groups asked for entertainment during their conference dinners. Along with comedy waiters, singing chefs and other themes, Fawlty Towers characters mingling with the guests throughout the evening was a popular choice. This was the basis of the show that we started in 1997.
What are the core values of Interactive theatre International and of FTTDE in particular?
APM: Immersive, site-specific comedy is a passion of mine, so that’s what ITI is built to accommodate – not just for FTTDE but also for other shows we have in production currently. And you can’t get more immersive and site-specific than FTTDE!
Let’s talk about the new show, The Wedding Reception…
APM: I’m really excited about it. It premieres at Brighton Fringe from 1 May and it’s the first time that we’re touring the UK with a brand new show. It’s another immersive experience that people will easily relate to. All cultures are familiar with weddings. It will be fun to adapt TWR as we tour around the world.
You have performed the role of Sybil since the very start. Does she have something in common with you?
APM: For that, you’d better ask my husband but I guess so! As Peter often says to me: ‘Thank you Sybil, can I talk to Ali now?!’ (Laugh) Sometimes I even find myself speaking in an English accent and saying: ‘Oooh, I knooow.’
Why have you decided to stop acting the role of Sybil?
APM: I’ve been walking in Sybil’s shoes since 1992. With nine teams of Faulty Towers performers to manage, and developing new shows, I want to focus now on growing the company. Besides which, Sybil is a physically-demanding role. I will possibly play her again in the future, on special occasions and… at the fanciest venues! (Laugh)
The company has accomplished many things since 1997: 18 years of touring, enthusiastic feedback and reviews, participation in the most important arts festivals in the world. What are the next goals?
APM: The London West End residency was a big one. I set that goal in 2008 when we first appeared in the UK. I gave myself five years to achieve it, and we opened in October 2012. The next milestone was North America, and we’ve just done a very successful showcase in New York as well as a three-month stint at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto; my aim for the US, though, is a spot on Broadway or Madison Square Gardens… I’d like to celebrate the 20th birthday of the show (2017) by opening our residency on Broadway.
According to each singular personality, how would Basil, Sybil and Manuel celebrate this anniversary?
APM: I think Sybil would celebrate with a really good dinner, some nice wine, and enough friends so that she doesn’t have to sit next to Basil!
Basil would have had no idea that it was a birthday until Sybil reminded him.
Manuel would just be incredibly grateful that he had a job. I imagine that he would be attempting to serve the celebration dinner and spill something over Basil!
Great news! Tickets for the show’s London West End residency are now open for the whole of the coming year; that includes the pre-Christmas season and all private bookings outside of regular performance days.
Dateline Saturday 21 March, Toronto: in a break from performing at the Sony Centre, Benedict Holme, Leigh Kelly and Imogen Miller Porter (aka Basil, Manuel and Sybil) joined television personality and film critic Richard Crouse on Canada’s NewsTalk 1010.
Listen to the podcast for a fun discussion about why interactive theatre is so popular – and about the possible future of action-men like Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis and Jason Statham!
Last Friday night (6 March), Teena and Gord came to the show at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts. The couple enjoyed themselves so much they wrote about the experience on their personal blogs: Teena in Toronto and The World of Gord.
Gord: “Teena and I had a fabulous time. We bought VIP tickets for the show so were in a separate area with free appetizers and a free tee-shirt.”
Teena: “It was an entertaining three hours. We didn’t know what to expect and we weren’t disappointed. Alison Pollard-Mansergh, Benedict Holme and Leigh Kelly were excellent as Sybil, Basil and Manuel! I would recommend it.”
With shows at Fringe World, Adelaide Fringe and Amba Hotel Charing Cross in London, the Faulty Towers team was on fire! The first reviews for Adelaide Fringe came in and we also got some great feedback and reviews on our Facebook page and Tripadvisor! Valentine’s Day brought on a few surprises too!
At Adelaide Fringe:
Our intrepid heroes survived Friday 13th in the spectacular Fringe parade, and we opened our month at the Fringe on Saturday. Audiences took every opportunity to congratulate an adoring Basil and Sybil on a very Faulty Valentine’s Day.
– ‘An uproariously funny five-star comedic feast’ InDaily Read the full review here
– ‘If you walk away with one regret from Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, it will be that you didn’t experience it sooner.’ AdelaideGlam – Full Review
– ‘Faulty Towers the Dining Experience is a great tribute show with loads of belly laughs, and combined with the wonderful meal at the Ambassadors, it’s a must see at the Fringe this year’. The Clothesline – Full Review
With many a full-house behind us, we close in Perth on 22 Feb, so get your tickets now!
In London’s West End…
In the meantime 14,470km away at Torquay Suite Theatre at Amba Hotel in London…
…Basil and Sybil celebrate Valentine’s Day in their own special way, while Manuel amuses himself in the kitchen. We continue to have five shows every week at this gorgeous venue throughout the year.
Want to be part of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience? Check our website for more info and sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about news dates and venues and special offers! We might be performing somewhere near you!
We’ve had some great reviews coming out of Fringe World Perth!
Some of our audience reviews are on Facebook. And here’s what a couple of our media critics have said…
and from The West Australian: