Fawlty Towers — 7/8 & 14/15 October 2011 in Headley Village Hall

See reviewsee 2013 production

The signs for a great show were there, there and there … all there for your enjoyment.

Pictures taken by Deb Williamson at the final performance Saturday 15th October:—

First half of the evening — 'The Hotel Inspectors'

Basil Fawlty (David Burnham) deals with Mr Hutchinson (Rod Sharp)

Sybil (Pru Harrold) steps in as he deals with Mr Walt (Johnny Preskett)

Manuel (Luke Oates) understands what he has to do

Sybil refurbishing herself

Manuel cleaning the cutlery — the Major (Louis Clist) looks on

Manuel leads Mr Walt to his table …

… and takes his order

Basil tries to pour the wine for Mr Walt …

… and take the order of Mr Hutchinson

As usual, Manuel gets it wrong

In the end, Mr Hutchinson ends up face-down in the cheese!

Mr Hutchinson, not best pleased, indulges in pugilism with Basil (who is on the floor at this point)

Who is the real Hotel Inspector? Not Mr Walt.

Nor Mr Hutchinson, who gets the custard pie treatment from Basil …

… and the cream-in-the-briefcase treatment from Manuel.

No, it's the three newcomers waiting and watching by the desk! (Jo Smith, Jean Teuten & Natasha Hibberd)

Second half of the evening — 'Basil the Rat'

Basil and Sybil arrive through the audience after the interval, arguing …

… to find Mr Carnegie, the Public Health Inspector (Mark Spiller), in the kitchen.

Sybil, Basil and Polly (Mel White) listen to the litany of wrongs.

Terry, the chef (Martin Wellen), thinks it's a "piece of cake"

Manuel is having a musical moment …

… which is interrupted by Basil. Go find the pigs in the water tank – ¿Que? Then Basil spots the RAT! "No, no. Ees Hamster!"

Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby (Jill Turner and Wendy Downs) were going to offer the 'hamster' a home, until they saw it!

Manuel is confused.

Polly offers it a home with a friend of hers …

… which seems to please Basil.

The staff are cleaning the kitchen for the return of the Health Inspector.

Manuel mourns the loss of his pet.

Polly tells him: "Not so sad!" and they find him some food to take to the Rat.

Polly tries to sell one of her paintings to a guest (Jean Teuten) – unsuccessfully!

Manuel runs in to say the Rat has escaped! The Rat is called Basil – and so is Mr Fawlty who, as Polly now tells Manuel, is 'aqui!'

The Major finds the rat in a bowl of nuts …

… and sets out to shoot it.

Meanwhile the rest of the staff are searching for it – Polly explains to Basil that it's a 'homing rat'

Basil decides to take his own action by putting a portion of poisoned veal on the kitchen floor.

The Major lets off his gun in the bar as the Health Inspector arrives again. "He'll come back for the nuts, you know."

Manuel thinks the Major has shot his pet rat – but Polly explains to all that he really means ratatouille.

Neither Manuel nor Mr Carnegie understands this.

Manuel accuses Terry of putting his pet Basil in the ratatouille. Terry says: "But I haven't made any bleeding ratatouille!"

Mr Carnegie decides to stay for lunch and wants to have veal – but Basil offers him lobster, as the veal might have rat poison on it.

Basil, Polly and Terry discuss which veal portions may still be edible. The white cat has eaten a piece.

Meanwhile, back in the restaurant, veal has already been served to a pair of customers (Peter Glinn and Dil Williamson-Smith) …

… and two more arrive for a meal (Jo Smith and Karina Farnlucher). Business is hotting up!

Manuel has seen the rat under table 7, and starts to look for it.

The customers leave in disgust, but Basil has been told that the lady has the rat in her handbag …

… and is threatened by her fiancé.

The rat escapes; Manuel catches it and puts it in a biscuit box for safety – but then Mr Carnegie asks for biscuits!

The cast of both sketches take a bow

Secrets of the show …

Annaliese shows what's behind the reception desk.

The kitchen table. And you thought that they learnt all those lines??

The workings of the rat biscuit tin.

Review writen by Peter Marsh

No Fault at Fawlty Towers or Faultless Performance!

What a brilliant evening! When the Autumn winds are blowing and the temperature is falling, we British resort to a really good laugh to restore our spirits and make life worth living. So, I am not at all surprised that all four performances of Fawlty Towers performed at the Village Hall by the Headley Theatre Club, and directed expertly by Nick Webb, were sold out with waiting lists a-plenty. People needed good therapy and got it.

The evening had two episodes of the original TV series for us to savour…the Hotel Inspectors and Basil the Rat. The story lines hardly mattered, but the first allowed Basil to get totally confused as to who was the hotel inspector, who would have been perfectly correct had he closed the hotel then and there. And the second gave the crew the opportunity to secrete a strange looking rat into various hiding places.

Acting is one kind of skill, and the Headley players had this talent in abundance. But this group of amateur enthusiasts needed to be first class impressionists too! After all, the audience really came to see John Cleese, Prunella Scales, Connie Booth, Andrew Sachs, the mad Major, Bernard Cribbins, and all the other famed actors of yesteryear who made this comedy series such a success.

The Village Hall stage is a small one, but no-one would have thought so looking at the excellent set design for this show. Somehow the reception area, behind which Basil hid on several occasions when mayhem raged around him, the doorway to the kitchen, and several tables for diners, managed to exist together without any sign of congestion, though a number of guests did suffer from indigestion when rat poison inadvertently was added to the quiche for extra flavour! The Stage Crew led by Paul Heath deserve praise for the design and construction of the set.

But back to the acting and impressions.

David Burnham as Basil was simply superb. He even looked like John Cleese; tall and thin, gangly of foot, and with a manic stare. But David had also worked hard on delivering Basil's contorted speech patterns, and his ostrich-like twists of the head and neck whilst the body remained stock still were hilarious. I was dying for him to go for the crazy walk, even though the scripts didn't call for it. The show of course had to have a lifelike Mr Fawlty to be a success, and David delivered in spades.

Basil's superior and haughty know-it-all wife, Sybil, was well played by Pru Harrold. She nagged Basil mercilessly and her continuous cries of his name matched the Prunella Scales version perfectly; the snorty laugh was spot on too. Every man in the audience was relieved they were not married to her.

Manuel, the hapless waiter and dogsbody from Barcelona, was played by Luke Oates. He took a real battering from Basil throughout the evening, but stoically kept running from Basil's hooks and uppercuts. His stooping gait and dangling arms reminded me of an orang-utan…his own version of the Andrew Sachs character…and it worked really well. Luke did not miss a single comedic opportunity all evening.

Rod Sharp as the supposed hotel inspector, Mr Hutchinson, in the first play deserves special mention. His line delivery was first class, especially as the part required him to deliver a series of dead pan monologues which could have caused a lesser actor quite a deal of trouble. But he was word perfect on the night, and he looked and sounded just like the original actor in the part, the great Bernard Cribbins.

For a show like this, an evening of craziness and fast comedy, every actor has to be up to scratch to support the main characters. Mel White as Polly, Louis Clist as Major Gowan, and Martin Wellen as Terry the chef were excellent.

One further point I would like to make. The Headley Theatre Club is a real asset to our village, not just because they produce plays, musicals and pantomimes for our entertainment, but because they provide a venue for the village to meet together and enjoy each others' company. And what makes an evening perfect? The odd glass of wine, of course; but also delicious food! And this is what we got…really tasty food. And who was the chef who designed the menu and prepared the food for the evening? Would you believe it…Pru Harrold who played Sybil Fawlty! What stamina!

Excellent acting, much laughter, great socialising, delicious food. It really was a faultless performance by Headley Theatre Club.

Peter Marsh
October 2011

Review writen by Sarah & Dave Horne

It isn't easy to bring a fresh approach to the staging of a well-loved 1970s television sitcom, especially one as familiar as Fawlty Towers. But Headley Theatre Club's production of two of the best-known episodes – The Hotel Inspectors and The Rat – was carried off with such energy, pace, verve and attention to detail that the audience, some of whom felt they knew the scripts almost as well as the actors did, were given a delightfully vivid theatrical experience and responded with frequent laughter and applause.

The ingenious staging, conceived by producer Nick Webb to be as faithful to the television layout of the hotel as possible, meant that the audience, instead of forming the "fourth wall", merged with the set and the action as they joined the stage diners in an excellent 3-course meal, appropriate to the skills of cheeky hotel chef Terry (ably played by Martin Wellen). The superb set, assembled by Paul Wareham and Paul Heath, was perfect in every detail, from the fully equipped kitchen – with two fridges, no less – to the very convincing rat in the biscuit box; the whole was overseen by a superb moose-head, constructed by Johnny Preskett who also played Mr Walt.

David Burnham's portrayal of Basil Fawlty was a hilarious tour de force which captured exactly the mixture of outrage, anxiety, snobbery, incompetence and nervous energy of John Cleese's original. He was strongly supported by Pru Harrold, assured in her rôle of the calm, competent, awful Sybil. The two actors were rarely off the stage, yet their pace never flagged.

Luke Oates gave a marvellous performance as Manuel, endearing in his incomprehension and enthusiasm, and managed the considerable feat of appearing to be smaller than Basil in spite of being physically taller than his boss. Mel White was excellent in the rôle of Polly, capturing the right blend of loyalty to Basil, ingenuity and quick-fire dialogue.

Rod Sharp was very convincing as the petulantly insistent guest, Mr Hutchinson, carrying off an extremely believable fight scene with Basil. Mark Spiller gave an able performance as the public health inspector threatening closure of the kitchen. Louis Clist was an endearingly baffled Major and other hotel guests (Jo Smith, Karina Farnlucher, Dil Williamson-Smith, Peter Glinn) provided reliable comic support.

The show was very nearly stolen, though, by Jill Turner & Wendy Downs as the doddering Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby. They brought great sparkle to the rôles which never dimmed, even when they had nothing to say. Without distracting from the action elsewhere they kept up an illusion of gleeful chatter, even mischievously appropriating a bottle of wine from a fellow diner at one point.

Under Nick Webb's excellent direction the actors, without exception, demonstrated great skill at moving around the confined space on stage, using the whole hall as a stage, interacting with audience so that even the interval between episodes was part of the play. Excellent delivery and timing of well-loved lines ensured there were lots of laughs even when the audience knew what was coming! Headley Theatre Club deserves hearty congratulations for putting on such an enjoyable and memorable show.

Sarah and Dave Horne
October 2011

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