Immersive experiences seem to be a growing trend when it comes to theatre in recent years. Doctor Who Time Fracture opened last year, transporting people to different worlds, while The Great Gatsby takes people back to the roaring 20s (as opposed to the boring 2020s full of lockdowns). Sometimes all you want is to sit down, enjoy a nice meal and watch chaos unfold around you, and that is where Faulty Towers comes in.
London's longest running immersive experience has just moved to a swanky new venue in Bloomsbury. Based on the well loved TV series from the 1970s, a revolving cast take on the three most iconic characters as they greet you, interact with you and try to ensure the evening goes off without a hitch... with, of course, disastrous consequences.
Devised by Alison Pollard-Mansergh, Faulty Towers - The Dining Experience has been touring around the world for more than a decade. It has appeared in 41 countries and over 1000 shows since 2008. Due to increased demand, it is now playing six times a week in London.
Cleverly mixing a scripted plot with improv based on the attendees they've got, the cast of three work flawlessly, thinking on their feet and ensuring the next laugh is never more than a minute away. On the evening I went, Rob Langston stepped in to the huge shoes of John Cleese to portray Basic Fawlty while Clare Buckingham took on his long suffering wife Sybil. The trio were completed by Leigh Kelly as the hapless waiter Manuel. The three deliver faithful characterisations in an expert performance. Considering they have the unenviable task to keep the narrative going while improvising (and, even dealing with a table of drunk and rowdy women on the night I went) yet never breaking a sweat is a testament to their talent.
Classic moments from the series inspire the action as it is played out while the audience enjoy a three course meal. I'm not a food critic so I won't go into great detail about it, though it was pretty gorgeous. A set menu though so you'll only deviate from it due to dietary requirements. Thankfully, Waldorf salad was not on the menu.
The two hour event starts before you've even been seated with the cast showing you to your table. The evening of course has some moments of downtime inbetween, so it's important to be sat on a table with somebody you can actually talk to, otherwise you'll find the evening very stop/start. Luckily, you are given the opportunity to eat without the fear of spitting anything out from laughter, though you are then only a moment away from being eyeballed by Basil or massaged by Manuel.
Fans of the original series will love being placed in the middle of the action in an evening of pure fun and escapism. If you've never seen the show, you will surely still fall in love with the slapstick humour and absolutely ridiculous yet charmingly hilarious wordplay at the hands of Manuel's constant misunderstandings.
It would be easy to dismiss a fun immersive event like Faulty Towers without giving it a second thought but that would be doing a disservice to the precision and perfection it takes to pull off something as utterly clever and chaotic as this. A fantastic cast hold the event together with ease in what is sure to be a night to remember. There's no wonder why this has been quietly playing in London for 10 years now. Here's to another 10.
Faulty Towers - The Dining Experience runs at the President Hotel in Russell Square. Tickets from faultytowersdining.com