Interactive comedy dining experience coming to Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
We chatted to Alison Pollard-Mansergh, co-creator and artistic director of Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, and of Interactive Theatre International, the company which produces the show, coming to the island in November.
The original Fawlty Towers was back in the 70s, how did the idea to revive it as a dining experience come about? I was an actor with ideas! Seriously, I loved - and still love - comedy and interactive theatre, and had a long experience in both. I met another actor, Andy Foreman, and we realised very quickly that we shared the same interests. We were fans of Fawlty Towers and started riffing on that, developing the script and the show framework as we went along. Our first show was in Brisbane in 1997 and we’ve never looked back.
Did you work from original scripts or come up with your own series of catastrophes? We don’t work from the original scripts by John Cleese and Connie Booth. We work from our own original scripts based on their TV programmes, and we improvise with the characters of Basil and Sybil Faulty and Manuel and the audience. Whether audiences know the TV series or not, our characters always react as the Fawltys might have done, because their impersonation skills are so good. And there are always guests who take on roles like Mrs Richardson or the Major and expect a suitable reply.
Was it hard to find the actors to take on such iconic roles? It’s always hard and we’re always on the lookout for talent as well as holding auditions. Our perfect performer can mimic the mannerisms and voice of their TV characters, can work in physically very demanding conditions, knows the TV series backwards, and can improvise with individual audience members as well as the room for a good two-thirds of the show. They’re a very, very talented bunch.
Is there just one group of actors or are there touring companies around the world – if yes, how many? Currently we have eight teams with home bases in the UK and Australia. Between them they tour the world pretty much non-stop.
Given that the original TV show was such a long time ago, do you find audiences already know the characters or is this something new to lots of people? A bit of both. A lot of guests know the TV show in a general way, especially as it’s repeated around the world all the time. But some guests will even put you to the test by quoting some really quite obscure references! For audiences who don’t know the show, of any age and nationality, it doesn’t seem to matter because they relate to the spontaneity of this slightly crazy world they’ve dropped in on.
The show received a warm welcome on its last visit to Bahrain, what did the actors have to say about the island? They had a very warm welcome indeed. That’s one of the reasons we’re back: the actors loved the island and the island love them!
Have John Cleese, Andrew Sachs and Prunella Scales seen it, what did they think? No, they’ve not seen it, though I do know that they know of us. I think audiences might expect them and our performers to ‘share the same stage’, and that would certainly be a tough one!