No nuts but loads of laughs as Duns Players excel again

John Schofied (Manuel) Peter Lerpiniere (Basil) DC (Alan) and Lynn Gray (Jean) on stage as Duns Players perform Fawlty Towers
John Schofied (Manuel) Peter Lerpiniere (Basil) DC (Alan) and Lynn Gray (Jean) on stage as Duns Players perform Fawlty Towers

Duns Players took to the boards again last week at the Volunteer Hall in Duns for a further two episodes of Fawlty Towers, looking to build on last year’s outstanding performances.

Four well-attended nights indicated a high level of anticipation and the audiences were not disappointed with a strong ensemble supporting the superb lead roles.

The first half of the show was “The Wedding”, in which Basil applies his overheated imagination to the relationships between the wedding party guests staying at the hotel and arrives at hideously inappropriate conclusions. Simultaneously, he is fighting off the advances of a wayward Frenchwoman and tangling limbs with an inebriated Manuel, to the baffled amusement of the hotel guests.

Reprising the roles they had played in the previous production, Peter Lerpiniere as Basil brought a relentless comic energy to the role and drove the show along; Kate Lester as Sybil had every physical and verbal nuance of the original perfected, and John Schofield (Manuel) looked every inch the emigré waiter who’s just learnt his savings have disappeared in the Spanish banking crisis. Christine Sclater’s calm and competent Polly completed a tremendous leading group.

Among the supporting roles, Jerry Ponder harrumphed enthusiastically as the Major with real comic timing, Alex Watson writhed convincingly as the over-sexed Mrs Peignoir and the wedding guests (Daniel Conroy, Lynn Gray, Nigel Warren, Rosie Daley) coped manfully with Basil’s barked instructions and the bedroom manoeuvrings.

Celia Hedderwick and Ruth Devlin pottered around to great effect as two of the Towers’ long-standing and long-suffering residents and Bob Noble delivered the “No nuts!” line with great élan.

The show’s second half featured “The Germans”, which has become legendary for the image of a concussed Basil, goose–stepping around a stunned dining room amid frequent references to ‘not mentioning the war’. However, it is probably funnier for its earlier scenes, with Sybil hospitalised for the removal of an in-growing toe nail (“Pity it’s not an in-growing tongue,” growls Basil), the ill-attached moose head and the hilarious confusion around distinguishing a burglar alarm from a fire alarm, and a fire drill from the real thing – the latter leading to an increasingly frantic Manuel trapped in the kitchen with a burning chip pan before Basil concusses himself with the fire extinguisher.

Helen Forsyth and Euan McIver, respectively the nurse and doctor attempting to nurse Sybil and constrain Basil, were commanding voices of authority, with Carol Robson as the Loud Woman and German guests Mike Hedderwick, Anthea Drysdale, Alex Wilson, Mathew Taylor, Alexandra Watney and Alex Watson, providing a stoic foil to Basil’s meanderings.

All-in-all a tremendous production with performances of a very high standard, impeccable direction by Peter Lerpiniere, lighting and sound by Terry O’Gorman and Paul Daley and stage management by Alexandra Watney.

Roll on Calendar Girls in September!