Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Rebecca takes the honours as Sybil


Fawlty Towers

Dudley Little Theatre

Netherton Arts Centre


ANY group which undertakes to reproduce a successful television show on stage becomes a group with a special challenge. It not only has to come competently to a formidable task – it is also expected to imitate the characters that are familiar to its audience.

This last is not an absolute necessity. It's just that eyebrows would probably be raised if the familiarity were missing – and here we have a reprise in which the Sybil of Rebecca Clee takes the honours.

She has a spirited attempt at sounding like Prunella Scales and she is splendid in combining her virtually constant despair of Basil with the authoritarian stance that is the essence of their relationship. She is the most militant of martinets; matter-of-factness beneath an abundance of hair – indeed, I suspect she has become more blest in this respect than has Ms Booth herself.

James Silvers, similarly, has a spirited crack at the lunatic Basil Fawlty. It doesn't quite come off as far as the sound effect goes, but he earns full marks for the contortions, the crouchings, the stares of blank disbelief, the hapless cover-ups, the vocal explosions and the geometric joy of the overworked elbows that mark his progress through Hotel Inspectors, Communication Problems and Waldorf Salad – for Prue Warne's production is a three-part salute to the joint geniuses that writers John Cleese and Connie Booth applied to their creation of this monster of mismanagement. Surprisingly, though they would probably be impressed with this reincarnation of their work, they receive no recognition in the programme.


We also have, in Garry McWillliams, a Manuel who is a delight, a stalwart in his stupidity, as prone to the head-slaps, ankle-kicks and buffetings of Basil as Basil is to the tongue-lashings of Sybil. The hapless man from Barcelona freezes in incomprehension as his unpredictable world leaves him rooted in its wake – but at least he has his own impeccable reason for walking into the hotel lobby with 22 toilet rolls.

The central foursome is completed by Julie Bywater's Polly, an unpushful lass who somehow generally keeps herself from registering despair at the chaos by which she is surrounded, but in whom one senses a volcano which could at any moment give its all.

Dave Hutchins comes up with a splendid cameo as the Major, Chris Brock is the obnoxious Mr Mackintosh and Jenny Pearson scores as the very deaf Mrs Richards who becomes fixated with the idea that Basil's surname is Watt. Tony Stamp makes an explosive impact as hotel guest Mr Hamilton, when he and his wife (Helen Hutchinson) are repeatedly thwarted in their attempts to receive a Waldorf salad.

There is a company of about 20, all of whom pitch in spiritedly to the chuckle-filled frolic in which they find themselves involved. This is a happy end to the DLT season, accomplished with flair and commitment. To 14-05-11.

John Slim

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