Everything you need to know about 'Fawlty Towers' in the West End

John Cleese brings his classic sitcom to the stage in this hugely anticipated new comic play, which has its world premiere at London's Apollo Theatre.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Dish up a Waldorf salad and don’t mention the war! Arguably the best sitcom of all time, Fawlty Towers, is back. The TV comedy classic has been adapted for the stage by its co-creator John Cleese, who also starred as hotelier Basil Fawlty, and it promises to be a red-hot ticket when it hits the West End this summer.

For this new production, Cleese – who co-wrote the peerless series with Connie Booth – has taken three of the most-loved original episodes and transformed them into a play. Prepare to relive “The Hotel Inspectors,” “Communication Problems” and, of course, “The Germans.”

That means all our favourite characters are checking in too: Basil and Sybil Fawlty, plus Manuel, Polly, The Major, and more. The fantastic Apollo Theatre cast is led by Adam Jackson-Smith, Anna-Jane Casey, Hemi Yeroham, and Victoria Fox.

Book Fawlty Towers – The Play tickets on London Theatre.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

What is Fawlty Towers about?

This is the beloved sitcom transferred to the stage, so you can expect the same set-up as the series. That means the harassed, furious, disaster-prone Basil Fawlty and his sharp-tongued wife Sybil running a dismal hotel in Torquay, in Devon, along with chambermaid Polly and Spanish waiter Manuel.

Basil constantly does battle with his eccentric guests and various tradespeople, while also creating catastrophes himself through his snobbishness, greed, and general impatience with everyone and everything. He often tries, in vain, to hide his schemes from Sybil, while the well-meaning Manuel and his problems with the English language make everything worse. It’s farce heaven.

For this stage show, Cleese is using three classic episodes from the original 1970s run. Season one episode “The Hotel Inspectors” sees a paranoid Basil panicking about which of his guests are the titular inspectors. In season one finale “The Germans,” a concussed Basil wildly insults their German guests. And in the season two episode “Communication Problems,” Basil tries to conceal his gambling win from Sybil, while dealing with “guest from hell” Mrs Richards.

Where is Fawlty Towers playing?

Fawlty Towers is making its world premiere at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End. The Apollo is situated on Shaftesbury Avenue, in the heart of the capital’s theatre district, and close to Leicester Square and Covent Garden. The venue has a capacity of 757 seats.

When can I see Fawlty Towers?

Fawlty Towers begins previews at the Apollo Theatre on 4 May and is currently booking to 28 September.

How long is Fawlty Towers?

We don’t yet have a confirmed runtime, as this is a new show. But Cleese has called this a two-hour play, so we’d expect a runtime of around two hours 20 minutes, including an interval.

What days is Fawlty Towers playing?

Fawlty Towers plays five days a week at the Apollo Theatre, with matinee performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and evening performances Tuesday through Saturday. For the complete performance schedule and show times, visit the Fawlty Towers page on London Theatre.

Who stars in the West End production?

Adam Jackson-Smith succeeds John Cleese in the lead role of Basil Fawlty. His previous work includes The Girl on the Train, The 39 Steps, and The Dresser in the West End, and The Real Thing at Theatre Royal Bath.

Starring opposite him as Sybil Fawlty (originally played by Prunella Scales) is Anna-Jane Casey. Her numerous West End credits includes Cabaret, Mother Goose, Girl From the North Country, Spamalot, Billy Elliot, and Magic Mike Live.

They’re joined by Hemi Yeroham and Victoria Fox as, respectively, Manuel and Polly (originally Andrew Sachs and Connie Booth). Yeroham recently appeared in La Cage Aux Folles at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, while Fox balances an acting career with Victoria & The Foxes, her renowned jazz and soul band.

Fawlty Towers characters

Assuming the characters in this new stage show match their TV counterparts, you can expect to meet the following unforgettable creations…

Basil Fawlty: A misanthropic hotel owner with a short fuse. Hilariously, he seems to resent anyone who actually stays at Fawlty Towers – unless it’s someone of a higher social class, since Basil is also a terrible snob. He’s scared of his wife Sybil, so tends to bully his underlings, especially waiter Manuel.

Sybil Fawlty: Basil’s formidable wife, who runs the hotel with him. She’s much calmer and more sensible than Basil, but often declines to work, preferring to chat to her friends on the phone – which is when we hear her trademark braying laugh. We’ll likely also see the return of Sybil’s spectacular perm.

Manuel: A waiter from Barcelona whose lack of English and general confusion adds to the chaos of the hotel. Manuel is naive and eager, in contrast to Basil’s bitterness, but unfortunately tends to incur his rage. Sometimes it’s justified, like when Manuel brings his pet rat into the hotel – called, of course, Basil.

Polly: The hotel’s overworked chambermaid and waitress. Since she’s relatively competent, she’s often given extra tasks, and gets ensnared in Basil’s various schemes and cover-ups. She has aspirations to be an artist, an ambition mocked by her boss.

The Major: One of the hotel’s permanent residents, The Major is an affable war veteran. However, he’s rather senile and hard of hearing, which adds to the general confusion.

Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby: These two sweet spinsters are also unfortunate enough to be permanent residents of Fawlty Towers. They’re both kindly and inexplicably have a soft spot for Basil.

Mrs Richards: The imperious star of “Communication Problems.” Mrs Richards is a rude, demanding, deaf elderly guest who terrorises the staff and kicks up a fuss when she thinks money has gone missing from her room. Watching her spar with Basil is a treat.

Who is in the Fawlty Towers creative team?

John Cleese has adapted his and Connie Booth’s glorious Fawlty Towers scripts for the stage. This comedy legend is also renowned for his work with Monty Python and movies like A Fish Called Wanda, plus big franchises such as James Bond and Harry Potter.

The Fawlty Towers play is directed by Caroline Jay Ranger. Her past work includes Steve Coogan Live, Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s Legends Live Tour, the UK tour of The Commitments Musical, and West End hit Only Fools and Horses – The Musical.

Sets and costumes are by Liz Ascroft (On the Shore of the Wide World at the National Theatre, Two Gentlemen of Verona for the RSC, UK tour of Ladies in Lavender), and lighting is by Ian Scott (Boys from the Blackstuff at Liverpool’s Royal Court/National Theatre, The 39 Steps in the West End).

Fun facts about Fawlty Towers

  • John Cleese was inspired to create the show after he and the Monty Python troupe stayed at the terrible Gleneagles Hotel in Torquay in 1970. Basil is based on that establishment’s owner, the rude and snobbish Donald Sinclair.
  • Astonishingly, there are only 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers – six in each of its two seasons. That might be part of why it’s considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, as we never saw a drop-off in quality; each of those episodes is an absolute gem.
  • The entire series was written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, who also starred as Basil and Polly. The pair were married during that time, but they split up in 1978 and Booth later retired from acting to become a psychotherapist. Their daughter Cynthia appears in A Fish Called Wanda.
  • The show’s opening titles always featured the hotel sign with the letters comically rearranged – a gag we may well see in the West End play. Those marvellously silly anagrams were worked out by production assistant Iain McLean, who was a crossword obsessive.

How do I book tickets for Fawlty Towers?

You can check in now! This new play promises to be a hugely popular West End event, so plan your trip to Fawlty Towers as soon as possible and get booking – Basil and his hilariously hapless staff are waiting…

Book Fawlty Towers – The Play tickets on London Theatre.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

Photo credit: the cast of Fawlty Towers in the West End. (Photo courtesy of production)

Originally published on

Subscribe to our newsletter to unlock exclusive London theatre updates!

Special offers, reviews and release dates for the best shows in town.

You can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy