Fawlty Towers on Norwich stage - just don't mention the war!
PUBLISHED: 08:53 24 August 2012
Fawlty Towers is regularly voted the nation's favourite ever TV sitcom. SIMON PARKIN reports as the Seagull Theatre return with more episodes lovingly adapted for the stage.
Who doesn’t recognise the line “Don’t mention the war!”? The character of Basil Fawlty is often imitated, but never bettered, with his unique and disastrous blend of flamboyant clumsiness, loveable idiocy and aspiring upper-class snobbery.
Set in a hotel in Torquay, there were only ever 12 — two series of six episodes — of the classic sitcom written by John Cleese and his then wife Connie Booth and broadcast between 1975 and 1979.
The original programme featured Cleese as Fawlty, Prunella Scales as his Sybil, Andrew Sachs as Manuel and Booth as waitress and chambermaid Polly Sherman.
Cleese was inspired to write the comedy after staying at the Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay while filming with the Monty Python team in the early 1970s. Basil was based on the real-life hotel manager, who Cleese described as “the most marvellously rude man I’ve ever met”.
Often cited as one of the greatest ever comedies, it was brilliantly — and often horribly — British. The programme celebrated everything good, bad and downright embarrassing about our nation’s culture. And all from the confines of one little dysfunctional hotel.
Like many good things, the show sadly came to an end before it should have. Of course, this is all part of its appeal — the public were left wanting more and the show has retained an enduring legendary status which only grows with time.
It should be no surprise then that the sitcom scripts have now entered the theatre rep cannon, regularly being staged by amateur companies up and down the country.
The last two summers Lowestoft Seagull Theatre’s rep company has staged three episodes to sell-out crowds and standing ovations both in Lowestoft and on tour around the region including performances at Norwich Playhouse. Next week they’re back again with three more.
The episodes this time begins with The Hotel Inspectors with Basil attempting to impress the undercover inspector, if only he could decide who it is. In Gourmet Night the hapless hotelier does battle with his car, a drunk chef and his culinary aspirations — “no Riff Raff” — and finally he loses the plot completely in the all-time favourite The Germans.
Director John Hales believes its enduring popularity is down to a combination of factors. “With Fawlty Towers, you’re ahead before you even start; we have some of the best written scripts in British comedy to work with.
“Also, our brilliant and talented cast and crew give their all to bring the show to life.”
He added: “We pay such attention to detail that our audiences tell us it feels like they are actually at a studio recording of the TV show.”
■ Fawlty Towers, Norwich Playhouse, August 30-31, £12 (£10 cons), 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk