THE Volunteer Hall was transformed into Fawlty Towers last week when Duns Players brought their stage adaptation of the classic John Cleese sitcom to the stage, well four stages to be exact.
And taking my seat on opening night I felt like I was more at the Ritz with young waiters and waitresses ensuring the the packed tables of audience members were kept fully refreshed throughout the night.
Now as someone who was brought up on a comedy diet that included the likes of ‘Allo, Allo’ and ‘Keeping Up Appearances’, I have to confess that ‘Fawlty Towers’ somewhat passed me by, so I settled down with an open, and somewhat un-educated mind.
To be honest though, it didn’t matter if you were a diehard Fawlty fanatic (as I quickly gathered a few were) or just game for a laugh, as Duns Players delivered some show-stopping slapstick from beginning to end.
While sitcoms like the aforementioned ‘Allo Allo’ have been specially adapted for treading the boards, ‘Fawlty Towers’ hadn’t and it was just by chance that director and Duns Players’ Basil Fawlty, Peter Lerpiniere stumbled across the TV scripts on ebay.
And although the reaction of the audience suggested that the Players stayed true to the original, having caught a glimpse of a Fawlty Towers episode before, I can safely say that they also put their own stamp on the hotel hit.
Immediately after Kate Lester, as Sybil Fawlty, uttered her first lines there were whispers from those around me that she had Prunella Scales’ accent down to a tee. Having seen Kate in many Duns Operatic productions such as ‘Anything Goes’ and ‘Hey Dolly’, this was certainly a different role for her which came complete with a very eye catching wig.
The show was a veritable workout for her and the rest of the company as they flitted between the four stages- the reception, bedroom, kitchen and dining room but never did she show any signs of flagging and her on-stage chemistry with Peter was fantastic.
And the leading duo had a superb supporting cast, fronted by Cath Booker as Polly and John Schofield as famous Spanish waiter Manuel- he know nothing!
These two came to the fore in ‘Communication Problems’, as did Jerry Ponder as the marvellous Major.
The problems weren’t made any easier with the arrival of a particularly irritating hotel guest, Mrs Richards, played by Helen Forsyth. Now as Chief Executive of Berwickshire Housing Association, Helen was someone I was familiar with but on the basis of last week’s performance I think she should definitely add ‘successful comedy actress’ to her CV. She and Peter shared some fantastic dialogue that raised more than the odd belly laugh from those assembled.
And after some light refreshment, the chuckles reached a crescendo for ‘The Kipper and the Corpse’ when the Fawltys thought they’d poisoned a guest with their out of date kippers. And Helen got in on the act again, this time alongside Bob Noble as an inquisitive couple who wanted to know why there was a corpse in their wardrobe. A further thorn in Basil’s side was Mrs Chase, a role fantastically filled by Eloner Crawford, and her precious pooch.
Another duo who really set the stage alight were Celia Hedderwick and Ruth Devlin as Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby, the self proclaimed ‘longest residents’ of Fawlty Towers. And then there was Dr Price, played terrifically by newcomer Tim Binney, who after discovering that his sausages were too out of date, wanted to get to the bottom of the suspicious shananigans.
By the time Basil had well and truly passed the buck to Sybil to explain the audience were once again in fits of laughter and the rapturous applause, whoops and cheers at the end said it all.
Basil Fawlty was clearly a role Peter was born to play and he and the rest of the Players- apologies for not mentioning everyone’s names- ensured that my stay at Fawlty Towers was an extremely enjoyable and eventful one. A five star rating on Trip Advisor for sure!