John Cleese may sue over Fawlty Towers 'rip-off'


John Cleese has said he is considering legal action against a production company over what he claims is a "rip-off" of Fawlty Towers.

The comedian said he had been unaware of the "astonishing financial success" of the Faulty Towers Dining Experience from Imagination Workshop.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Cleese, 76, said the production had been using the classic sitcom's concept, characters and dialogue "without the need to pay (co-writer) Connie Booth and me a single cent".

The two-hour interactive show - which debuted in Brisbane in 1997 and has been staged in London - has seen thousands of people enjoy the antics of "Basil, Sybil and Manuel", according to a description on the company's website.

Cleese said: "Seems they thought that by not asking, and by changing the 'w' to a 'u', they'd be in the clear! Hilarious.

"I'm always learning. I had never realised that 'tribute' is a synonym for 'rip-off'."

After one Twitter user branded the situation "f****** shocking", Cleese replied: "That's the phrasing I'm hoping to use in court."

Imagination Workshop said it was "staggered" by Cleese's "vitriol" and claimed the actor had known about the show for years.

In a statement posted online, the company said: "We are not an unauthorised rip-off show - anyone who knows the law in this area will understand that we do not require authorisation 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."

The stage version of Cleese's show, Fawlty Towers Live, will have its world premiere in Sydney in August.

More than 24 hours after the series of tweets began, Cleese posted: "I've just read that I should have contacted them! Sorry! I'd assumed it would be the other way round..."

He also joked: "Warning: I have already registered the Trade Mark 'Mindy Pylon's Frying Experience' for a chain of Fish-and-Chip shops."