Monday, 22 February 2016

"Fawlty Towers" by Encore Performing Arts
Nottingham Arts Theatre.

I am a massive fan of the TV comedy series "Fawlty Towers" and, not having seen any of the shows that have been produced for the stage, I wondered if there would be the same comedy affect. I didn't need to worry as I have not laughed as much as I have tonight, and I mean laugh, a proper laugh, not a giggle or a titter but a proper belly laugh!

The scripts for "Fawlty Towers" are some of the funniest in TV comedy history and this talented and fairly new cast present the script in a fluid and faithful way, which is half the battle won.

Basil Fawlty is one of the most recognised and iconic comedy characters of the 1970's and Graham Buchanan personifies the whole Fawlty character without doing an impression of the great comedy character. He has the walk, he has the expressions and he also sounds a lot like Cleese's famous hotel owner. Graham has the majority of the lines, and the bulk of the brilliant one-liners as well. He delivers like I've never seen him deliver before, but is just one of the many stars of this production.

Sybil is played by Claire Farrand-Preston, one of the new names to me and what an introduction. The Sybil laugh is there and the well known catch phrase "Oooh I know" is there. A wonderful comedy female character who Claire has paid a wonderful tribute to in her performance.

Adam Guest as the Spanish waiter, Manuel, is the third of the "Fawlty Four" and another very funny portrayal. This is the second time that Adam has played Manuel, and it is great to see him in a comedy role where the timing, and relationship with Graham's Basil is wonderful to see. you know when you have got it spot on when you get appreciation from the audience after a big scene, which Adam received, and quite rightly so.

Polly, played by Zoe Stebbings, is one of those comedy characters that is slightly under rated in my opinion and she makes a brilliant Encore debut in this role.

Loved the two elderly ladies, Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, played by Angela Walters and Jenny Carty, and well worth keeping an eye on during the main action because they really are very funny on the sidelines.

Terry Stevenson as the Major has the absent mindedness character off to a tee, especially in the final part of the trio, "Communication Problems". This episode also has one of my favourite Fawlty characters in Mrs Richards, the deaf old bird who thinks she has lost some money at the hotel. this is a comedy classic and played so close to Joan Sanderson's original role by Sandy C Lane. A wonderful close to a magnificent trio of Fawlty classics.

There were so many brilliant characters created by John Cleese and Connie Booth and in "The Hotel inspectors" the character of Mr Hutchinson is one of the highlghts of this very funny episode and Ross Lowe shines in this role. This particular episode also has some great slapstick fighting between Hutchinson and Fawlty.

Lord Melbury in " A Touch Of Class" played by Martin Briggs and Danny Brown, the CID officer who rumbles the Lord, played by Jack Readyhoof are worlds apart but great characters in typical Cleese/Booth characterization as Fawlty tries to attract a more upmarket clientele for the hotel and, as expected, fails magnificently.

The rest of the cast, Al Grant, Andrew Bould,Amy Clover, Kathryn McAuley, Josh Birchall, Arun Hayes and Verna Bayliss complete the class cast list.

Directed by Ollie Turner, who I also had the pleasure of seeing him as producer of "American Idiot" for the now defunct Streetlight Theatre Arts, brings a wealth of talent to the show and keeps the theatre production very close to what you'd expect from watching the TV series. No mean feat as Ollie is far too young to experience the shows the first time round, but he does a cracking job, keeping the action rolling on with not too many longer than expected spaces. Not sure if these were intended but would hardly have been noticeable to anyone else not so well versed in Fawlty. Ollie is ably assisted in the direction role by Milly Shawcross.

Produced by one of the busiest men in local theatre at the moment, Sam Griffiths, these three, along with the brilliant Encore backbone behind the scenes, and often in front of the scenes, they present an evening consisting of some of the funniest lines written, acted by some of the nicest and talented people I've seen on stage. A great multi functional set as well.

If you like a really good laugh and reliving some classic 70's sit com moments, go along to the Nottingham Arts Theatre for "A Touch Of Class", "The Hotel Inspector" and "Communication Problems" which is on until Saturday 27 February 2016. Do not miss this show.

You'll also find some collection buckets at the end for donations to an excellent charity in Macmillan Cancer Trust, so if you pop down, please give what you can.

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