John Cleese and a ‘Fawlty Towers’ Dinner Theatre Tribute Are Not Getting Along

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The Guardian reports that John Cleese is very upset with — and may be suing — a particular dinner theatre production called The Faulty Towers Dining Experience.

You may of course recall that John Cleese was the star and writer/creator (along with Connie Booth) of the classic and ever-so-slightly differently spelled sitcom, Fawlty Towers. The name similarity isn’t coincidence — the dinner theatre show bills itself as a tribute to the popular British series. But while many see it as a tribute, Cleese accuses it of being a “brazen, utterly shameless” “rip-off.”

The show runs 2 hours, comes with a 3-course meal (no news of whether or not said meal comes with a copyrighted rat in a biscuit tin), and costs approximately $100 per ticket. It’s a pretty big operation: according to the Guardian, there are nine different casts operating from both England and Australia, and touring. Cleese first explained in a Tweet a couple of days ago how he heard about how the project — which it turns out has been touring the world since 1997 — had been doing swimmingly financially (he’d known of its existence for a year):

Cleese particularly takes issue with the perceived profitability of the project, while the people behind it never asked him or Booth for permission to use the Fawlty Towers world (though the original scripts are not used) in their shows. He’s also worried that now that there’s an actual official Fawlty Towers stage show — which Cleese himself adapted — about to open in Sydney, there will be confusion, The Sydney Morning Herald first reported that Cleese was considering legal action.

Since Cleese’s initial Tweets, his joke-laden anger has escalated in such a way that the voice of Basil Fawlty is almost audible:

Interactive Theatre International, meanwhile, said in a statement to theSydney Morning Herald, “We do not know if his comments were intended to be directed at our show, which has been running for nearly 20 years. If his comments were directed at us we reject them – they are misleading and inaccurate. We are huge fans of his work and wish him all the best with his new show.”

In a separate article, the Guardian reports that Interactive Theatre International’s PR and brand director, Geraldine Hill, said the company is “staggered by [his] vitriol” towards the “tribute show.” She continued:

We have made nothing like the sums he claims we have…We are not an unauthorized rip-off show — anyone who knows the law in this area will understand that we do not require authorization to use the concept of Fawlty Towers. We are not the bad guys he is painting us to be.It is a shame he has chosen to air his frustrations so publicly rather than contacting us directly about this matter.