Apollo Theatre

FAWLTY TOWERS – THE PLAY at the Apollo Theatre


“Adam Jackson-Smith steps into Basil, embodying the neurotic hotelier with pin-point accuracy”

The stage is set with the familiar interior of the eponymous Fawlty Towers with the reception, restaurant and a small guest room raised upstage above the lobby (Liz Ascroft). Evoking the sense of being a television set, big Fresnel lights dotted around the set burnish the scene. We meet Sybil Fawlty (Anna-Jane Casey) cackling through the phone and spouting orders. Basil Fawlty (Adam Jackson-Smith) enters to expectant applause as he demonstrates the couple’s entirely dysfunctional marriage dynamic, his clear dislike for every aspect of his life burning through.

The irritatingly reasonable Mr Hutchinson (Steven Meo) rattles off his requests to the annoyed Basil who summons the loveable and earnestly confused Manuel (Hemi Yeroham). Endlessly saving Basil in his lies, Polly Sherman (Victoria Fox) tries to troubleshoot the various conundrums presented to her by the eccentric guests and highly-stung management. Throughout, poor Major (Paul Nicholas) struggles to “remember the remembrance service” as he is unscrupulously ripped off and sidelined. Fawlty Towers is in full swing, complete with mania and comeuppance.



If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fawlty Towers – The Play, is a faithful recreation of the award winning television show, taking its best bits and executing some of the finest routines in comedy. It is an adaptation of three episodes – so expect to see hotel inspectors, head injuries, moose heads and fire drills. Watching it as an audience member and hearing the laughter erupt around the Apollo Theatre instead of a studio audience recording in the living room is an experience in itself. Basil announcing in Act One that the ‘Germans will be arriving later’ incited a knowing laugh and teased Act Two’s pay-off without being overly referential.

Anyone not a fan of farce and slapstick would likely struggle to enjoy this play, as could be said of the television show, but Fawlty Towers lives and breathes perfection of this genre. Despite being written in the 70s the language of comedy is timeless and Basil’s totally unhinged behaviour coupled with endearing, infuriating and bemused guests and colleagues makes for a brilliantly tight comedy of errors. Fawlty Towers is also refreshing in its flawed and funny female characters and ridicule of Basil’s self-induced unhappiness and poor attitude. There were no jokes that caused any hindsight-induced cringe; the play is well adapted for modern audiences.

The cast have the pressure and responsibility of upholding the standards set by John Cleese, Connie Booth, Prunella Scales, and Andrew Sachs. They rise to the challenge with vitality and exactness, demonstrating the pinnacle of farce to hilarious effect in this slick high-energy performance. Adam Jackson-Smith steps into Basil, embodying the neurotic hotelier with pin-point accuracy to Cleese’s performance. We knew we were in safe hands from the very first angrily spat out “Right!” and Sybil’s vibrato giggle. Directed by Caroline Jay Ranger, the play is a beautiful homage to the television version, with actors hugging the source material closely, leaving little room for any new or unique interpretation. But when the material is the gold-standard of slapstick, why would you change it? Fawlty Towers feels at home on stage, arguably, where it always meant to be.


FAWLTY TOWERS – THE PLAY at the Apollo Theatre

Reviewed on 15th May 2024

by Jessica Potts

Photography by Hugo Glendinning



Previously reviewed at this venue:

MIND MANGLER | ★★★★ | March 2024
THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE | ★★★ | November 2023
POTTED PANTO | ★★★★★ | December 2022
CRUISE | ★★★★★ | August 2022



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