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Fawlty Towers is such an iconic piece, that audiences expect to see what they’ve seen on TV – without it being an out and out impression of the characters, and that is what HHTC achieved.

The set was superb – to get all the action areas onto the stage, without it seeming crowded, and which the cast could move around freely was a feat of design – and to then build it so that it was workable was again a fait accompli.  Well done to Stewart Fairthorne for the ideas, and John Eames for executing them to such a high standard.  The dressing of the set was also excellent – so well done to Gill Eames too.

The play was a good vehicle for using a dinner production setting and serving the meal during the interval.  A 3-course meal was a huge undertaking, but what we got was a high quality meal in keeping with the era the play was set in, devised by Veronica Thompson, who had help from a large team of people to cook, serve and wait table.  The food was hot (or cold where relevant!), very tasty and worked well.  

I liked the fact that the cast moved around the hall prior to the production, getting us into the mood, and also during the interval, it kept the feel going, so that we felt as if we were part of the production. Well thought out.

The costumes were all very suitable and looked fresh and comfortable.

Sherief Hassan as Basil Fawlty gave us a superlative performance – close to the original, but individual enough to not be old hat, which was the case with all the characters.  I loved the asides regarding the lovely Sybil, and the rather abusive and patronising treatment of Manuel – all very good.

Karina Bygate created a slightly smaller scale Sybil, pitched just right I felt – there was still the horsey laugh but not quite as loud, and the hair, but not quite as showy – plus a lovely attitude to the hapless and rather incompetent Basil.  A very good relationship and an excellent characterisation.

Roseanna Bloxham was a very calm Polly – mostly retaining her poise whilst all was mayhem around her.  Nicely played, and with some good expressions even when the action wasn’t centred around her.  

Paul Passi created a super Manuel – some great facial expressions and real misinterpretation, the questioning looks, all went towards somehow knowing that Manuel was getting as much out of deliberately misunderstanding as we did!!

Imogen Roberts was a gas as Mrs Richards, such a fine portrayal, and one that she could really go to town on, using her deafness as a block – I enjoyed it very much, there were nuances created by both her and Basil, and their contempt of each other was such fun.

I liked Penny Kent and Carol Brown as the Misses Tibbs and Gatesby – they were after all mainly in the background, but they interacted well and whilst being a presence, didn’t detract from the action.

The Major was played very well by Keith Ranger – good timing and his very military speech and bearing, made him a force to be reckoned with, but putty in Basil’s hands because of his failing memory, a good character.  

Dave Simmonds as Mr Hutchinson created another good character – an obvious conman – but it suited him well, and he has that twinkle in his eye that always makes me feel that he is having his victims on – a very good trait for that type of person – nicely done.

We had Bob Randall in small parts in both plays, along with Keith Appleby and Paul Whiteman, all playing fairly small parts, but played as a comparison to each other and creating a good contrast to the ebullience of the main characters.

Michael Swietochowski as Terry the Chef, Mr Firkins, the Taxi Driver and a Hotel Inspector completed the cast, with different personas, all of which were different, and again created a good contrast to the other individuals.

I came away feeling that I’d seen a really good production, one I enjoyed and that gave us everything we needed for a super evening’s entertainment – good food, good production and excellent hospitality from Annette, John and Terry particularly, which is always appreciated, plus the chance at the end to chat with other colleagues and the cast.  Very well done to everyone involved.

Hemel Hempstead Theatre Company


review date: 13th May 2015  

Boxmoor Playhouse

Director:  Stewart Fairthorne


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