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John Cleese's Fawlty Towers - The Play


Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1V 7HD 0330 333 4809

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  • Synopsis
  • Theatremonkey show opinion
  • Reader reviews
  • Performance schedule
  • Ticket prices

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS / "BUY OR AVOID" SEAT GUIDE

Booking until 4th January 2025
Captioned performance: 10th August 2024 at 2.30pm.

A small hotel in 1970s Torquay. Eccentric guests, an even more eccentric owner - Basil Fawlty.

The classic BBC sitcom comes to the West End stage, featuring 3 episodes ("The Hotel Inspector," "The Germans," and "Communication Problems") with a little extra to pull the storylines together.

 

Monkey tip: head for stalls bar, as you will not want to miss your selfie opportunity:

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You really won't!

(seen at the afternoon preview performance on 8th May 2024) 

If you love “Fawlty Towers” then you will love this. If you are unfamiliar with the 12 episodes of television comedy gold which are still held in the highest esteem five decades later, you may be confused at first, but probably converted by the end.

Visually, Liz Ascroft sticks to the original costume and set designs as far as possible. We get the familiar dining room and foyer, with the office to the side of it and a bedroom above from which Krakatoa cannot be seen erupting. The moose is nailed to the wrong wall, and other walls are missing, but it’s Fawlty Towers, it is more than enough, it is wonderful to be in Torquay.

John Cleese and Connie Booth’s original scripts are interlaced with a few new lines and juxtapositions in time to fold three strands into one show by linking the comings and goings of residents and guests from various episodes.

It works insofar as we can admire most of the original lines and set pieces and laugh recognising familiar characters. The problems are that the original episodes each build to tremendous explosive pay-offs, resolving everything before them in a glittering blast of comedic illogical logic.

The cast are a wonder. Adam Jackson-Smith out-Fawlty’s John Cleese once he gets into his (considerably long and hilarious) stride. Slightly less of a whimperer, more resilient yet under the command of both wife and fate, it is an extraordinary performance which avoids simple impressions to leave a unique imprint.

Likewise Anna-Jane Casey as Sybil is her own woman. A little coarser voiced than Prunella Scales, her laugh is a deadlier seal-machine-gunning device than ever from the first minute of the show, her mind an even deeper snake-pit. And topaz would suit her for a wig.

Every male from 8 to senile had a crush on Connie Booth’s Polly back in the day. Victoria Fox continues the legacy. The new scripts do not paint her as quite the anchor as in the original, thus allowing Fox far more fun as Fawlty’s accomplice as well as saviour. Played with ironic verve, there’s no reason she will remain waitressing forever.

The most difficult role of all falls to Hemi Yeroham. Manuel is an icon, Yeroham made for the role. His “OK” sign has gone missing, he walks a little less ape (trust the monkey) than Andrew Sachs, but Sachs will be smiling down on the rest of Yeroham’s career after this patient, caring, sometimes unsure and even a little mischievous rendering, a treasure to watch.

Paul Nicholas has great success as The Major, his long racist speech cut yet still funny without the unnecessary middle paragraph, his mind wandering to produce ever sharper pieces of unconsciously funny mental shrapnel.

Among the guests, Rachel Izen is the double of the great Joan Sanderson in looks, voice, manner and actions, with Izen’s own querulousness added. Surely a performance which must be in line for “Best Supporting Cast” nominations come awards time.

With Kate Russell-Smith and Nicola Sanderson orbiting as Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby and Steven Meo as Mr Hutchinson all turning in their best eccentricities in controlled manner given the circumstances, the mayhem is always coming from the characters and actors as much as the script – and it all feels right.

There are also problems in compressing the stories. The distortion of an ensemble piece leaves it a little unbalanced with Basil noticeably driving events rather than having them simply unfold at times. 

We anticipate some of the lines, with the audience laughing before they are spoken. Additionally there is a little reliance on what we already know going in – the hamster / hammer line falls flat among those without the knowledge.

Younger people will need to be open minded about the time in which this was written. The very mature audience the monkey was with laughed more at the visual than spoken humour, the few youngsters seemed appalled at the violence and did not appreciate the value of money had changed, going by the conversations the monkey overheard.

 The audience don’t clap the end of act one as they are unsure it is over, and the second half ends the show on an inconclusively fast slapstick note rather than the elegant “did we really see that?” finishes we are used to.

Still, nostalgic and brilliantly played, it is good to be among friends again and the monkey hopes the team remember there are 9 other episodes left to plunder.

Legacy reader reviews

Stalls P7: View was excellent. Legroom was good.
(Broadway John)

The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.

Tuesday at 7.30pm
Wednesday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Thursday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
NO MONDAY PERFORMANCES

Runs 2 hours approximately, including one interval.

WHERE TO BUY TICKETS / "BUY OR AVOID" SEAT GUIDE

Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.

Apollo Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue price Seating Plan

RUSH TICKETS: App Todaytix are offering £25 "Rush tickets," located at venue discretion, for all performances. Released for the performance on that day, first-come, first-served. Download the App from Todaytix

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