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It Was Five Years Ago Today: The time when I was an actor in Fawlty Towers

The last acting job I did before I ceased living in England was the South Hill Park stage production of John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers at the Wilde Theatre, in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Anyone who knows me will know how much of a Fawlty fan I am. I mean, I might struggle to remember what I had for dinner last night but I could still recite the script of each one of the 12 episodes at you until you hit me on the head with a naughty moose and call me Fraulein. That power of recall undoubtedly helped in joining the production, as did my dear departed friend Maxine Robinson, who played Miss Tibbs.

Needless to say it remains one of work projects I’m most proud of. So much so that during the show’s run I even boasted I was in FT on my Grindr profile, so excited was I!

This screenshot actually reminds me of the No.1 question I was asked the moment I told anyone who’d listen, virtually or socially, I had joined the cast of this classic comedy: “Oh, are you playing Manuel?” was almost invariably the response.

Alas, that role had already gone to Luke Burton by the time I signed on, and he was perfect the role, really capturing the essence of Andrew Sachs without veering into impersonation. Lisa Renals was born to play the little piranha fish Sybil Fawlty, and Laura Hartley was exquisite as the permanently put-upon Polly Sherman.

The Germans

Me? I was the only actor to bag a role in each of the three episodes we staged each night. In The Hotel Inspectors I played a hotel inspector, in The Germans I played a German, and in The Psychiatrist I played a psychiatrist. Oh hang on, the memory’s going; the director Adam Stafford actually expanded a walk-on role in the original TV series specifically for me so that I am a dirty flirty gum-chewing wideboy who takes a bit of a shine to Manuel, flirting outrageously with the hapless waiter’s rather pert bottom.

The Psychiatrist

Thanks to Adam I ended up being the only cast member with three roles. A more than tasty triumvirate if ever there was one. Of course, what we did couldn’t have been possible without the incredible scripts and legendary performances of the television cast. Please, please try to understand that before one of us dies.

And the original Germans: “This is not funneeee!” (courtesy, BBC)

Steve Pafford

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