Fawlty Towers 3
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8 February 2011
Charles Cryer Theatre, Carshalton
Stephen Macvicar

Thank you very much for inviting me to Chase Theatre Company's production of “Fawlty Towers Pt3 The Third Sitting” recently at the Charles Cryer Theatre. Thanks also to Clare Gollop for making the necessary ticketing arrangements and to your Front of House staff for making me welcome on the night itself.

After the success of the two previous Fawlty Towers productions, I guess that it was almost inevitable and very welcome that Chase Theatre Company would decide to continue their Torquay adventures with three more episodes. These are probably the hardest episodes to stage as the action moves between locations which none of the others do. These slight bumps in the road were easily overcome. I’m guessing that this particular production was fun to rehearse and perform and from an audience point of view (a really enthusiastic bunch and a full auditorium) this really came across.

It has become a regular thing to say that Chase Theatre Company productions are of a high standard – and this was no exception. With the familiar theme music playing as the lights went down, we knew exactly where we were and glad to back with Basil and friends. The multifunctional set incorporated all the components of the hotel (via four flats) including the reception, bar, kitchen and dining room. The set was nicely decorated with paintings, pots and pans, bar stools, rug, typewriter, side desk, plant pot and moosehead helping to depict the various locations.  

These comedy dramas are now approaching forty years old and still hold the same place in our hearts as they ever did. Your audience were in stitches regularly and this is not just because of the quality of the material but because of the quality of the delivery. The episode when Basil apparently forgets his anniversary was expertly compiled. Their closest friends arrive to celebrate with them and Sybil has gone off on the huff. From then on the staging was tough as we moved seven or eight cast members from reception to bar to bedroom and back again without slowing down the action. Similarly, Basil has to run to the local restaurant a couple of times and then punish his ailing car. All done with humour but it was only humourous because the actors delivered it in a straight fashion. The main protagonists have valiantly succeeded in growing in their roles over three sittings to the point where we are almost demanding that Chase undertake the four other episodes not yet captured.

There are a lot of scenes in these episodes which meant they were harder to set but your production team easily overcame these difficulties. Not to mention a larger than usual cast, many of which were doubling up as different characters.

Congratulations to Denis Steer (2 episodes and Clare Gollop 1 episode) for directing such a tight production which was tastefully compiled. The cast were on top form. I must also mention the costumes which were in keeping with the period. Chase Theatre Company achieved the ultimate - a runaway success and a sublime production.

Your main cast members were in total control. Barry Gollop as Basil was sublime. I felt at first there was a slight element of underplaying but as the evening wore I could see that Barry was just warming up. His sarcastic comments and asides were right on the money. I sometimes find the nature of the humour in the sketches a little irritating when the characters are asked time and again to repeat what they have said but it was a joy on this occasion. Barry worked very hard, seldom off stage and we all appreciated his efforts. Clare Gollop as Sybil, complete with badger striped wig was on cutting form. Just a look or a word and you felt for Basil. Clare was the ying to the yang and always looked serene when others were losing their heads. You wonder how these two ever got married (Sybil and Basil that is). Charlotte Gollop as Polly was always trying to do the right thing and help Basil wherever she could in order to keep the peace. Charlotte has absolutely the right amount of manic mayhem to heighten the situation and this in turn stirred up Basil to achieve raucous situations all of which provided amazing entertainment. Alan Smith was back as Manuel and was the butt of all Basil’s outpourings. A real crowd favourite, Alan looked puppy-eyed, tooked a smack and got on with it. Great stuff! Denis Steer also return as the famous Major and was equally excellent. I honestly now can’t imagine anyone else playing the part. Other characters came and went and all contributed fantastically to a genuinely good night out. However I should also like to mention Judy Abbott in particular as Mrs Richards the deaf lady in the Communication Problems episode. The best I can say is that she was hilarious. Bold, brash and unsympathetic throughout without the glimmer of a smile.

Your A4 play programme has now settled into a steady format which is very easy on the eye and contains plenty of interesting articles despite only containing eight pages. The photos and biogs were excellent and I think you should consider entering your programmes into the future NODA Programme awards. Even if you weren’t to win, you would still receive some feedback which may be of value. You would have to include NODA information which I would be happy to provide you with.

Thank you for inviting me to the Charles Cryer Theatre and we all look forward to your future productions. If I can ever be of assistance, please feel free to ask.

Kindest Regards

Stephen Macvicar
London Area 3