John Cleese may sue over “Faulty Towers” dinner theatre


John Cleese may take legal action against an Australian theatre company staging The Faulty Towers Dining Experience is slated to run at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival next month.

The production, by Interactive Theatre International, began in 1997 inspired by the Fawlty Towers characters Basil, Manuel and Sybil, and has since been seen by over half a million people featuring “nine teams of cast touring the world virtually non-stop.”

The show has received good reviews. But while a recent season at the Sydney Opera House cost up to $195 for dinner and show, John Cleese and co-writer ex-wife Connie Booth, have not received a cent.

Cleese today told Fairfax, “If they’ve been going for 20 years without paying us a penny, they could well owe us a very significant amount.

“They didn’t ask our permission and we didn’t know it was happening on this scale,” he said. “If little groups are making some money that’s not a problem, but this is entirely different.”

Ms Pollard-Mensargh, founder and artistic director of Interactive Theatre International, told Fairfax,
“We understand that John Cleese has made a comment to the media concerning dinner theatre.

“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.”

This week Cleese introduced actor Stephen Hall to media as the official Basil from the upcoming Fawlty Towers Live production, which has its world premiere in Sydney in August.


  1. Secret Squïrrel

    I wonder which of Mr Cleese’s comments does Ms Pollard-Mensargh consider to be “misleading and inaccurate” –
    That their show is clearly strongly based on Cleese’s?
    That they didn’t ask Cleese’s permission?
    That he and Booth didn’t know it was happening on such a scale?
    Or that they haven’t paid any money to Cleese or Booth?

    Sounds like the usual publicity bluster while they go into a mad scramble to avoid getting taken (quite rightly) to the cleaners.

  2. I remember seeing a similar show in Auckland in the 90’s – it was Fabulous, so much fun. It was great night out with amazing food – not sure if it’s still running but John would be proud!

  3. It might be passing off but even if they had trouble proving the necessary elements then it’s but more likely just simple copyright infringement would be sufficient.

  4. It’s well within his and Ms. Booth’s right considering that the group have been shamelessly profiteering (quite significantly) from the ideas and success of others. A once-off “garage band” style show is one thing, but considering that this has been an ongoing, and highly successful enterprise for nearly 20 years with no payment of royalties whatsoever, I hope that they get taken to the cleaners.

    I’m surprised that they’ve been doing this for so long without arousing the ire of the BBC, Cleese et al.

    If they have in fact been paying royalties to the BBC, then it should be the BBC’s responsibility to give Cleese etc. their due.

  5. I was reading this as John Cleese is tweeting about it. It appears he’s annoyed / frustrated about it and looks like it may be a court case.

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