Fawlty Towers stage show heads to London’s West End

A stage show based on the 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers is to launch in London’s West End later this year.

The play has been adapted by writer and creator John Cleese using material from three episodes of the BBC series – The Hotel Inspectors, The Germans and Communication Problems.

Cleese said it was a “thrill” to be bringing Fawlty Towers to the West End for the first time.

The show will premiere at London’s Apollo Theatre on 4 May.

Cleese said: “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.”

The two-hour play was previously staged in Australia, but this is the first time it has come to the West End.

John Cleese as Basil Fawlty and Andrew Sachs as Manuel in Fawlty Towers

Only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers were ever produced, but it is considered one of the great sitcoms of all time

Set in a fictional hotel in the seaside town of Torquay, Fawlty Towers followed an irritable hotel owner who was frequently rude to demanding guests.

The stage show will merge the storylines of three episodes to create one narrative arc.

Basil will be seen attempting to be unusually courteous to guests following a tip-off that inspectors may be visiting hotels in the area.

But his plans are disrupted by a party of Germans and a particularly challenging guest, Mrs Richards.

Cleese explained: “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.”

The casts of the original Fawlty Towers TV series, and the new West End stage show

Promotional images for the West End show (right) mirror those of the original TV series (left)

In a review of the show during its 2016 run in Australia, the Guardian’s Cassie Tongue said the episodes had been “woven together quite solidly into one story”.

“A few elements from other episodes – like Easter eggs for fans – crop up during the course of the mayhem,” she explained.

However, despite an “exemplary” cast, the show was only awarded two stars, with the critic commenting there was “nothing new or exciting enough to make a compelling case for Fawlty Towers as a play”.

The London show will be directed by Caroline Jay Ranger, whose previous credits include Only Fools and Horses: The Musical and Monty Python Live.

The cast includes Adam Jackson-Smith as Basil Fawlty, Anna-Jane Casey as his wife Sybil, Hemi Yeroham as waiter Manuel and Victoria Fox as Polly, the chambermaid who often rescues Basil from difficult situations.

Tickets for the show go on sale on 7 February.

Joan Sanderson, as Mrs Richards, and Andrew Sachs, as Manuel have communication problems in Fawlty Towers

An episode featuring the impossibly demanding Mrs Richards (played by Joan Sanderson) was a favourite with viewers

The original episode of The Germans was briefly removed from some broadcast platforms in 2020, following the Black Lives Matter protests, due to the use of racial slurs.

It was later reinstated with a warning about “offensive content and language”.

The episode sees recurring character Major Gowan use an offensive word in one scene, while Basil Fawlty repeatedly tells everyone “don’t mention the war” in front of the German guests.

Cleese co-wrote the original TV series with his then-wife Connie Booth, who also starred in the series as Polly.

The principal cast was completed by Prunella Scales as Sybil, and the late Andrew Sachs as Manuel.

Despite being considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, only 12 half-hour episodes of Fawlty Towers were ever produced. The first series aired in 1975, the second in 1979.

The sitcom was famously based on a real-life hotel owner, Donald Sinclair. Cleese came up with the idea for the show when he stayed at Sinclair’s Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay and became fascinated with his incredibly rude behaviour.

Last year, it was reported Cleese planned to write and star in new episodes alongside his daughter Camilla.

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