A long-running feud between producers of two live shows inspired by Fawlty Towers has taken a fresh twist, after the rivals launched competing productions based on another classic BBC sitcom: Only Fools and Horses.
The latest development in the dispute has seen Phil McIntyre Entertainments, producer of the forthcoming West End musical adaptation of Only Fools and Horses, threaten to pull all its business from hotel group Radisson Edwardian if it does not stop hosting shows created by the second company, Interactive Theatre International. Radisson Edwardian hosts both of ITI’s dinner experience shows – Faulty Towers the Dining Experience and Only Fools the (Cushty) Dining Experience – in two of its London hotels.
Phil McIntyre Entertainments has argued that the ITI productions infringe its rights as the official licensee for live performances based on the two sitcoms, and has requested venues not take bookings for any unauthorised dining shows.
However, ITI claims that because it does not use scripts or music from the TV series and classes itself as a tribute show, it does not contravene copyright and does not owe royalties. In both cases, ITI began staging its shows before Phil McIntyre Entertainments launched rival productions.
In a letter seen by The Stage to Radisson Edwardian Hotels Phil McIntyre Entertainments claimed that by not paying royalties, the unauthorised shows “cause significant distress” to Fawlty Towers creators John Cleese and Connie Booth, as well as Only Fools and Horses creator John Sullivan’s estate.
The letter goes on to warn the hotel group that Phil McIntyre Entertainments will no longer book rooms at Radisson hotels for the cast and crew of its other productions. These include the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, the Walking With Dinosaurs tour and shows from a number of comedians, such as John Bishop and Catherine Tate.
“We have instructed our travel agents to no longer use any Radisson or Radisson Blu hotels on any of our tours or productions until the Interactive Theatre productions cease to operate at your hotels, which I think you will find a significant amount of hotel rooms across the country,” the letter said.
ITI has been producing its site-specific Fawlty Towers-themed show for nearly 22 years in the UK and Australia, and has been engaged in a dispute with Phil McIntyre Entertainments over the production since 2015.
Phil McIntyre Entertainments also produces its own Fawlty Towers dining experience, Fawlty Towers – the Official Dining Experience, which has been endorsed by Cleese and began performances this year.
In September, ITI introduced its Only Fools and Horses-inspired show. A rival version created by Phil McIntyre Entertainments, with permission from the Sullivan Estate, is due to begin performances early next year. It is called Only Fools and Three Courses – Cushty Dining Experience.
The show opens as Phil McIntyre Entertainments also prepares to launch a new musical adaptation of Only Fools and Horses, which is set to run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from February and is also produced by the company.
ITI’s artistic director Alison Pollard-Mansergh said several venues had stopped booking its shows since 2015 as a result of Phil McIntyre Entertainments’ actions, including a venue due to host the latest Only Fools and Horses experience in January.
She said the pressure exerted by Phil McIntyre Entertainments had caused “a great deal of stress to everyone in the company”, and argued that there is “no justification” for the producer to contact venues demanding they cease taking bookings from ITI. She stressed the company’s shows are “perfectly legal”.
Phil McIntyre Entertainments did not supply a comment when contacted by The Stage.