Interview: Rob Langston (Faulty Towers the Dining Experience)
Updated: Jan 24
This ‘seriously funny’ (★★★★★ The Advertiser) show returns for its biggest Fringe yet. It's the world’s longest running and most successful tribute to the BBC series, and it's returning to Stamford Plaza Hotel for Adelaide Fringe 2020; tickets are on sale now.
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience invites audiences to climb inside the TV show and experience it from the inside out, tempting audiences to play with Basil, Sybil and Manuel as they serve a 3-course meal. Highly interactive, fully immersive and 70% improvised, it's a two hour comedy spectacular that uses a supreme blend of top-flight improvisation and a completely original theatrical script. Expect chaos, laughs, and a brilliant night out – or lunchtime!
Brisbane born in April 1997, Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is now an international institution, performed around the world continuously by 40 actors. It won its first international break in 2008, having been discovered by a Dutch promoter at Adelaide Fringe Honeypot; it has since appeared in 41 countries.
The 2020 Adelaide Fringe line-up features 5-star review winners from previous Fringes. It includes a world-wide Basil favourite, Rob Langston, as well as two renowned Australian performers: Anthony Sottile (Manuel) and Rebecca Fortuna (Sybil).
To kick off, what show are you currently working on and what is your role in the production?
The show I’m currently involved with is Interactive Theatre International's Faulty Towers The Dining Experience, and I play Basil Faulty.
What drew you to this show and why do you think now is the right time to be bringing this story to the stage?
Well, I’ve always been a massive fan of Fawlty Towers so the chance to play a character so iconic was massively exciting for me. The original show is as popular as it ever has been so it’s ALWAYS the right time to bring this story to the stage – or rather, to the floor, as this is an immersive show. The appetite to be immersed in our Faulty Towers restaurant is a massive draw for so many people.
What has the experience been like working on this show? What has been unique about this show and your process in comparison to other shows you have worked on?
The experience has been wonderful. The opportunity to interact with the guests means every show is different and difficult to predict... And also with it being site specific, I’ve been able to do the show in so many different spaces and so many different places all over the world.
What can audiences look forward to in this show?
They can look forward to being in their very own episode of the show, with all the unexpectedness, mayhem and hilarity that comes with that... and also get an excellent 3-course meal.
What has been the most rewarding part of this show to create for you?
Honing and working on the detail of playing such a well known character.
Why is this a production that a 2020 audience cannot miss?
Who could resist an evening of fantastic food and being served by Basil, Sybil and Manuel Who could possibly want to miss that?
When first beginning a new project, what is the first part of your process in approaching a new role?
Reading the script and analysing it, any clues about the character in how they are described, or seen as by others, how they react to things, to get a really good feel of the person I’m playing. If the person I’m playing is a real person or a character that already exists on TV or the internet, I’ll study lots to try and get a handle on physical attributes.
What is a common misconception that people have about your role in the production?
That’s it’s just a copy of Basil Fawlty from the TV sitcom. Instead, because this is an interactive show, you have to think like the TV character and consider every eventuality and how he would act. You have to go way above and beyond a simple impersonation. You have to become the character, if you like, and react to any situation or set up new situations accordingly.
What has the rehearsal process been like in bringing this story to life? By the time audiences see this show on stage, what has gone into making it happen?
Well the show has been going for 23 years now, so it’s developed a lot over the years, a lot of it organically. The different casts (we have quite a lot, worldwide) work together often and over the years we have developed a lot of the chemistry, timing and comedy which works well with each of the different casts we have.
Do you have any opening night rituals? If so, what are they?
Nah, I’m not the least bit superstitious.
What is something that you take away from each show that you work on? Do you feel like you take a piece of the production with you each time?
I think the reaction of the audience and the individual interactions that I encounter mean the most. The original show is so important to people and you feel that as you interact with the audience. It’s a real privilege to play a character that means so much to people.
When was the turning point for you when you realised that theatre was not just a hobby but a passion? How did you go about making it your career and is there any one show that you can attribute this to?
I worked in business for years and was quite happy doing writing and production as a sideline with my best mate. During one production for a speed-dating company, we were putting together some online adverts, and to save money, I got in front of the camera. I loved the experience so much that I studied acting part time, before quitting my job and training at Drama Studio London.
Across your work, is there one story, thought or theme that keeps you interested in continuing to create? What stories do you find yourself drawn to the most?
Inclusivity. Anything that involves the audience. I love fresh comedy ideas.
What has been the highlight of your career so far and what is still on your performance bucket list?
I think performing Faulty Towers The Dining Experience at Sydney Opera house and also at London's Royal Albert Hall have to be right up there as highlights. I would love to be involved in something at the National Theatre in London… or play a Bond villain!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given that you would like to pass on to aspiring theatre makers?
At drama school one of my teachers told me ‘Only take on board critisism in reviews if it honestly resonates with you. It’s all subjective... otherwise you’ll drive yourself insane trying to please everyone.” I think it’s important to be selective with the criticism you take.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
What is your favourite production you have ever seen?
Danny Boyle’s version of Frankenstein at the National Theatre in London in 2011. It's the most exhilarating, innovative and exciting theatre production I’ve ever seen.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world - where do you go?
Paris. Always Paris.
What is your dream show to work on?
Anything by Alan Ayckbourn.
What is a hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Football (or soccer in Australia). I’m a massive fan.
What’s next for you after this show?
A big, big, holiday.
Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is showing across the world in 2020. For a full list of dates and to book tickets, visit their website here.