John Cleese says farce best in theatre as he brings 'Fawlty Towers' to stage


John Cleese says farce is best seen in the theatre as he brings a new stage version of his classic 1970s comedy show "Fawlty Towers" to London's West End.

Fawlty Towers The Play has been adapted by Cleese, who co-wrote and starred in the original TV series, playing Basil Fawlty, the inhospitable owner of a chaotic fictional hotel in the southern English seaside resort town of Torquay.

The 84-year-old has adapted three of his favourite episodes for the play, which opens at London's Apollo Theatre on Saturday.

"Farce, and this is farce, is best in a theatre, because in a theatre you can watch everything that's going on. Television... there's somebody there choosing that you're on that close up, or this close up, " Cleese told Reuters in an interview on Thursday."...So I think it plays better in a theatre than it does anywhere else... There used to be so much more comedy in Britain... it's nice to sit in an audience that's laughing because you laugh more than you do when you're watching it at home on your own."

Fawlty Towers, written by Cleese and Connie Booth, ran for 12 episodes in 1975 and 1979.

Actor Adam Jackson-Smith will play Basil in the new play while Anna-Jane Casey will take on the role of his bossy wife, Sybil.

"People assume that because it's of a time and it was only broadcast.. in the late 70s and 80s that that's the only audience that will enjoy it, which is absolute rubbish," Casey said.

"I know 18-year-olds, nine-year-olds who've gone 'That's that funny programme about the hotel' cos they've seen it (on TV)... so we're hoping and we know it will spread across so many ranges of ages."

As well as the play, Cleese is working on a "Fawlty Towers" television reboot with his daughter Camilla.

"We just decided there was no point in trying to do anything to do with the 'Fawlty Towers' because we'd done that as well as we could," Cleese said.

"But when somebody suggested a way of doing it, which had never occurred to me... we said afterwards... 'that could be very interesting'. The only character from the old Torquay version would be Basil and... my daughter would be Basil's (illegitimate) daughter."

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