The Cast of Fawlty Towers

Sybil Fawlty played by Prunella Scales

Sybil Fawlty

Poor Sybil! In addition to trying to ensure the smooth running of Fawlty Towers she also has to spend a large proportion of her time keeping a tight rein on her “stick insect” husband Basil. She never misses an opportunity to close off an avenue of pleasure for Basil, such as betting on the horses.

Running a hotel and running Basil’s life of course both get in the way of her two favourite pastimes — golf with her lady friends and gossiping on the phone at reception. Watching Basil’s blood boil in one particular episode as he has to sit and listen to Sybil repeatedly replying “Oh! I know!” in a high-pitched voice as she hears the latest gossip from Audrey is priceless.

Sybil is usually the one to be seen trying to pacify the irate guests after Basil has either insulted them or more often tried to throttle them to keep them from speaking out.

You will frequently find Sybil in the hotel's dining room as this is where her diplomatic skills are most often required, after all this is where most of the hotel's disasters occur — and not all of them culinary!

Sybil's calm approach to a problem and a cool head under pressure are often the only things that prevent Fawlty Towers from descending into total anarchy. Heaven knows what would happen to Basil if she ever carries out her periodical threats to leave him.

Played by: Prunella Scales

Born: Prunella Margaret Rumney Illingworth
Date of Birth: 22 June, 1932 — Prunella Scales shares a birthday with singer Jimmy Somerville, Meryl Streep and Esther Rantzen.
Place of Birth: Sutton Abinger, Surrey, England

Prunella Scales married actor Timothy West in 1963 and they have two sons: Samuel and Joseph.

Prunella has also appeared in numerous television shows, films etc and is also held in high regard for her many stage appearances in British theatre. Most recently, she has appeared in a string of successful TV adverts for the supermarket chain Tesco. She is a confirmed socialist, a good friend of Neil Kinnock and, naturally, a member of the Labour Party. She still insists on using public transport whenever possible and her many “causes” include being President of the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Prunella Scales on Richard & Judy

On Monday 10 June 2002, Prunella Scales appeared on the UK teatime show Richard and Judy, here is a brief résumé of the ten minute interview:

Richard commented on the recent decision by the wife of Donald Sinclair (“the real Basil Fawlty”) to speak out about the way her now deceased husband was portrayed in Fawlty Towers. Prunella remarked that she was unaware of Mrs Sinclair's recent interview, although naturally she was aware that the Sinclairs were annoyed at the way Mr Sinclair was slighted, in their opinion. Prunella went on to confirm that she definitely didn't base the persona she brought to the character of Sybil Fawlty on any specific real person.

Richard next asked if playing Sybil—undisputedly her best-known TV role—had “haunted” her career in any way, but she said an emphatic “no”, she was delighted to have played Sybil and she didn't think she had become typecast after playing the character.

The remainder of the short interview was spent discussing Prunella’s recent role playing Queen Victoria at Greenwich Theatre.

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Free download!

Play starring Prunella Scales

The Wireless Theatre Company are offering the audio play, The Youth of Old Age for free. The Youth Of Old Age is a gloriously offensive comedy from controversial writer Stuart Price, which stars Britain’s much-loved Prunella Scales as Plutocrat Elizabeth Willem-Gracie - possibly the most brutish, wicked, racist, sexist, ageist, violent and loveable character she has played in recent years. Go direct to the download page.