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Fawlty restaurant staff play it for laughs
It is not every day you spend the evening being wined and dined by Basil Fawlty, his wife Sybil and that crazy Spanish waiter Manuel.
Yet that was the surreal scenario that unfolded in the plush new Restaurant 1914 at the Alhambra Theatre last night.
A trio of actors from Laughlines Comedy Entertainment have joined forces to bring the key actors from the iconic 1970s sitcom to life.
In one sense, it worked.
Laughter was not in short supply and you certainly could not fault the energy of Michael Wilson-Green (Basil), Wren Chapman (Sybil) and Paul Nolan (Manuel).
Passion for their work dripped from all three and there was an uncanny resemblance to the characters they were portraying.
Michael Wilson-Green, also the managing director of Laughlines, took centre stage with a domineering performance which befitted the hapless old Basil, portrayed by John Cleese in the TV original.
Paul Nolan was not far behind as the waiter from Barcelona, while Wren Chapman looked the part but to my mind never quite pulled it off.
If anything, it was all rather too chaotic and fraught.
Just like a typical episode of Fawlty Towers? Well, possibly.
But the overwhelming majority of the audience were well past middle-aged and the sheer pace of what was happening made it difficult to keep up with at times.
On my table were two couples approaching pensioner status from Castleford.
They were not untypical of the make-up of the room.
After drinks in the bar, the characters suddenly appeared and it became apparent the performance had started.
At first the actual plot was difficult to decipher but we soon moved upstairs into the Restaurant 1914. Food began to be served by the restaurant’s attentive staff and the fishcake for starters, chicken and vegetables for main course and lemon tart for dessert, followed by coffee and chocolates, were very good.
As the audience devoured their food, the three characters came to the fore.
Much of the script was improvised and the performance of Wilson-Green, in particular, was to be admired.
Manuel was seen scurrying under tables looking for a hamster, Sybil got drunk on a bottle of gin and Basil, typically, was driven to despair.
Towards the end of the night there was a sing-along between the audience and the three characters to the Tom Jones classic ‘Delilah’.
Not for the first time in the evening, it lacked conviction and that undeniably filtered through to the audience.
Last night was the first night of 11 at the Alhambra in February and demand for tickets is very high. All in all, entertaining stuff.