Friday, October 07, 2011

'Fawlty Towers' by John Cleese and Connie Booth

7 October 2011

On Friday we returned to the tiny theatre in Toddington to see TADS take on ‘Fawlty Towers’. This was a straight presentation of two episodes of the much cherished 1970s sitcom by John Cleese and Connie Booth. I must admit I was dubious as to whether this would work on stage. ‘The Germans’ and ‘Basil the Rat’ are so familiar that most of the audience could probably have chanted along with the dialogue. And the characters of Basil Fawlty, Sybil, Manuel etc. have become so iconic there was a real danger that any attempt to act these parts again now would just seem like impersonations of John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Andrew Sachs et al. It was  great testament to the skills of the TADS actors, excellently directed by James Sygrove, that they managed to create a believable set of characters that drew you into the plot and (almost) made you temporarily forget the originals. When Basil said “Don’t mention the war – I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it”, the line was perfectly in context (and therefore very funny) rather than sounding like the repetition of well-worn catchphrase. The Fawlty Towers scripts were very much of their time and some elements sounded a little uncomfortable to contemporary ears. But Fawlty Towers is excellent farce and the timing in the TADS production generated some hilarious moments (even though we knew they were coming). With a large cast crammed onto a small stage, it was some achievement to get the slapstick to work so well. Matt Flitton stood out as Basil Fawlty – a wonderful performance – but all the actors were impressive, particularly Susie Condor as Sybil Fawlty and David Sachon as The Major.

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