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Fawlty Towers

Fawlty Towers West End - Variety

John Cleese to bring Fawlty Towers to West End

Classic British sitcom “Fawlty Towers” has been adapted for the London West End stage by original series writer and star John Cleese.

Cleese, who co-wrote the original 1975 TV series with Connie Booth and starred as Basil Fawlty, has written a two-hour play based on three of the original TV episodes – “The Hotel Inspector” and “The Germans” from Season 1 and “Communication Problems” from Season 2. “The Germans” episode was in the eye of a storm in 2020 when UKTV removed it as it contained “racial slurs.” It was later reinstated after Cleese attacked the decision to remove the episode as “stupid,” as well as taking a swipe at those who take a revisionist view of history in the context of the Black Lives Matter debate.

Directed by Caroline Jay Ranger (“Only Fools and Horses The Musical,” “Monty Python Live”), the “Fawlty Towers” play will bring several of the beloved sitcom characters to life on stage. In the play, following a tip off that hotel inspectors may be visiting and eager to impress, Basil attempts to ingratiate himself with guests that he suspects are there to critique the establishment. The situation is further plagued by a party of Germans, the guest-from-hell, Mrs. Richards, whose infuriating complaints prevent him from hiding a gambling win from his ever vigilant and bossy wife, Sybil. Together they run their hotel with a little help from the unflappable Polly, and very little help at all from Manuel, the trainee waiter from Barcelona who is the butt of Fawlty’s frustration.

Basil will be played by Adam Jackson-Smith; Sybil by Anna-Jane Casey; Manuel by Hemi Yeroham; Polly by Victoria Fox; The Major by Paul Nicholas; Mrs. Richards by Rachel Izen; Mr. Hutchinson/German guest by Steven Meo; Miss Tibbs by Kate Russell-Smith; Miss Gatsby by Nicola Sanderson; Mr. Thurston/German guest by Greg Haiste; Mr. Walt/Dr. Finn by Danny Bayne; Taxi Driver/Mr. Firkins / Mr. Kerr/Mr. Sharp by Neil Stuart; German guest by Emma Fenney and hotel guests: Mia Austen, John Hasler, Dale Superville. Completing the company of players are Ben Jacobson and Suzy Bloom.

The sitcom was first recorded at BBC Television Centre in 1974 and was first broadcast on BBC Two in 1975. The iconic show went on to win many awards and plaudits including two BAFTAS for Best Situation Comedy and in 2000 it was voted the best British program of all time in a British Film Institute poll. Set in a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, just 12 half hour episodes of the iconic comedy were made. The sitcom is based on a real-life hotel owner, Donald Sinclair. Cleese came up with the idea for the character of Basil Fawlty when he stayed at Sinclair’s Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay and became fascinated with his incredibly rude behaviour.

In 2016, Cleese and Booth reunited for a stage adaptation of “Fawlty Towers,” which premiered in Melbourne and went on to tour across Australia.

Previews of the West End adaptation will commence at London’s Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, from May 4. The production is presented by Phil McIntyre Live. It is written by Cleese and Connie Both and adapted for the stage by Cleese. The set and costume designer is Liz Ascroft, the lighting designer is Ian Scott, casting is by Anne Vosser, Denise Ranger is the assistant director and Chrie Kiely the resident director.

In 2023, it was announced that “Fawlty Towers” was being revived for TV at Castle Rock Entertainment, with Cleese and his daughter Camilla Cleese set to write and star.

Cleese said: “What a thrill to be bringing ‘Fawlty Towers’ to the West End for the first time – nearly 50 years since the show was first recorded, in December 1974. We’ve been involved in the casting process for some time, being constantly reminded of what a wealth of acting talent we have in Britain – sorting the very, very, very good from the merely very, very good. Finally, we assembled a top-class group of comedy actors who will bring the show to the Apollo Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. I’ve adapted three of my favourite episodes for the stage and written one huge finale, which will bring together the endings of all three episodes. So here we are, all the way from Torquay, via the old BBC Television Centre, to the West End! I do hope some of you will come to the Apollo to laugh together. And laugh. And laugh…”

Naman Ramachandran 1 February 2024