Basil! A Review of Fawlty Towers presented by UpStage Theatre School.
By Steve Heath
On Saturday 3rd August, I attended the final performance of Fawlty Towers presented by UpStage Theatre School at Malbank High School in Nantwich.
The School Hall was an excellent setting for this play with raised seating offering an excellent view of the well-crafted stage set. Musicians, dressed as Manuel, greeted the audience with an enjoyable opening to the evenings’ proceedings.
So where do you start when you are bringing an iconic classic comedy to the small stage? At the beginning? Well yes, and what a beginning it was! The moment the lights went up to Sybil Fawlty’s “Ooohh I knowww”, everyone in the sell out audience new they were in for a treat.
Michaela Warrilow’s portrayal of Sybil was excellent. From her mannerisms to the voice, she was every inch Basil Fawlty’s much-loved Wife…..and tormentor!
We were then introduced to the man that is Basil Fawlty, probably the worlds’ worst hotelier. Most people are aware of John Cleese’s portrayal of Basil in the hit BBC comedy, which meant Harry Johnson had some very big shoes to fill, and boy, did he manage to fill them! For a young actor to pull off this role with such confidence and ability, suggests that he has a very bright future.
We soon meet the hotels’ long suffering employees, Polly and Manuel. Jessica Mullock played hotel maid Polly brilliantly, while understudy Christy Ball put his own hilarious spin on the legendary Manuel.
The play covered 3 ‘episodes’ from the original TV Series, starting with ‘Hotel Inspectors’. Our first unfortunate hotel guest was played by Dan Bull, who was obviously revelling in his role as the highly annoying, fussy and extremely challenging Mr Hutchinson.
In episode 2 ‘Communication Problems’, Sophora Cliff was wonderful as the very demanding, hard of hearing Mrs. Richards’. The audience were rolling in the aisles as an infuriated Basil held up a piece of paper telling Mrs Richards to turn her hearing aid on – only to get the reply “I can’t read that – I haven’t got my glasses”!
Episode 3 was ‘Waldorf Salad’. The gorgeous Mrs Hamilton (Caroline Buckley-Punyer) sashayed into the hotels reception area and had Basil lost for words for once. However he soon regained his familiar composure as a loud and wonderfully larger than life American, Mr Hamilton portrayed by Justin Williams entered the hotel.
All the familiar characters were there.
Richard Saddler pulled off a classic ‘Major’, Mrs Tibbs and Mrs Gatsby were in fine form thanks to Janet Knapper and Jan Johnson’s touch and Henry Passmore excelled as Terry the Chef.
From the principle characters to the cameos, every single actor made this production of Fawlty Towers their own. The timing and ability needed to make a good comedy was there in abundance and Upstage should be very proud of themselves for this fine production.
Co-director/producer Justin Williams, said:
“Harry and I actually started our new adventures in London with this show – it marked a symbolic return of people who helped inspire Harry and confirm to me that I wanted to pursue my dream.
I owe a lot of people for this opportunity – one Harry and I will always remember fondly”
Cast & Crew
Basil Fawlty – Harry Johnson
Sybil Fawlty – Michaela Warrilow
Polly – Jessica Mullock
Manuel – Robert West
Major – Richard Saddler
Mrs Richards – Sophora Cliff
Mr Hutchinson – Dan Bull
Mr Johnstone – Ross Hogg-Robinson
Mrs Arrad – Alice O’Connor
Terry the Chef – Henry Passmore
Mrs Hamilton – Caroline Buckley-Punyer
Mr Hamilton – Justin Williams
Mr Arrad – Mark Brisbourne
Mrs Tibbs – Janet Knapper
Mrs Gatsby – Jan Johnson
Inspector – Connor Hill
Manuel Understudy – Christy Ball
Cameos – Ross Hogg-Robinson, Alice O’Connor, Mark Brisbourne, Connor Hill.
Set Designers – Justin Williams, Harry Johnson.
Set & Construction – Keith Johnson, Sam Johnson, Ben Homer, Jan Johnson, Janet Knapper.
Direction & Production – Justin Williams, Harry Johnson.