Christmas at The Bethlehem Fawlty

By David Winfield


The characters from the British TV comedy, Fawlty Towers, feature in this Christmas story. Basil and Sybil are at odds over what to do with the newly arrived Mary and Joseph, with the situation complicated by the arrival of a hotel inspector.


Basil Fawlty
Sybil Fawlty
Mr Enoch, a hotel inspector


(‘Fawlty Towers’ theme music plays and is faded out during first lines. Scene: A hotel foyer. At the reception desk Sybil is on the telephone to a friend.)
Sybil : No! You don’t say. Really! Well I always said he’d do well. Oh, I believe it. Yes, maaahvellous!
(During this conversation Basil enters carrying a sandwich-board reading on one side ‘Horse Full’ and on the other ‘No Room – go way’. He is heading towards the main door. )
Sybil: Basil, what do you think you’re doing?
Basil : (stopping and looking around)    I’m sorry, were you speaking to me?
Sybil : And who else?   (into telephone) I’ll have to call you back Audrey, just a small matter to be seen to at this end. Bye.
(Basil has continued walking towards the door. Sybil hangs up the telephone.)   Basil, where are you going?
Basil : Just a brief stroll around the Sea of Galilee, my little turtle dove.
Sybil : (angrily) Basil!!
Basil : Sorry dearest, but it does appear that we have completely accommodated our establishment and must therefore deter any potential lodgers from even crossing our threshold. It would be a waste of their precious time – not to mention my own.
Sybil : So what’s that you’re carrying?
Basil : That, my little pickled olive, is some of Manuel’s signwriting indicating the aforesaid replete state of our hostelry.
Sybil : Are you sure that’s what it says?
Basil : Of course that’s ……. (looks at sign closely for the first time)  Manuel!!
(Exits through side door in obvious anger, brushing past Polly who is entering through the door.)
Sybil : Now don’t be harsh Basil, you know he has difficulty understanding the language. Oh, why do I bother, Polly?
Polly : (nearly falling over sign) What’s this, Mrs. Fawlty?
Sybil : It seems, my dear, that we have a full house. And when I stop to think about it, we have been rather busy over the last day or two. Perhaps we’ll have deserved a census bonus, what do you think?
Polly : There’s a good idea. Do you really think so?
Sybil : If you can get Mr. Fawlty to agree then it’s all right with me.
Polly : (with a disappointed tone)  Oh.
Basil : (from offstage)  You illiterate Spanish twit!
(Sound of a slap and Manuel staggers on stage holding his ear in pain. Basil follows.)
Manuel : I not illiterate, my mother and father, they both married to each other.
Basil : You are a total waste of space. I ask you to write out the briefest of messages – it’s a good thing Moses didn’t have you helping out on Sinai or we’d have been worshipping the one true dog and coveting adultery on the Sabbath.
Manuel : I do it again Mr. Fawlty.  (taking sign and exiting)
Basil : Honestly, it’d be easier training a camel driver. You do wonder about the level of inbreeding at that end of the Mediterranean.
Polly : Mr. Fawlty.
Basil : Yes, yes! What is it?
Polly : I was talking to your wife and the subject of a bonus came up.
Basil : (clutching at his leg)  Ooh! Aah! Sorry, the old war wound playing up. Battle of Jericho, Philistine spear, very painful, nearly lost the old leg you know, should really have a lie down till the throbbing eases.
Sybil : Basil, stop all this nonsense. The nearest you ever got to Jericho was singing that silly song at your nephew’s bar mitzvah and being asked to leave by Uncle Levi.
Basil : Oh thank you, thank you so very much. We returned servicemen do appreciate the sympathy that is accorded us around here. (aside)  It’s obvious you’ve never had a Roman cohort advancing on your flank.
(A young couple enter through the main door, looking around for attention. The woman is very obviously pregnant.)
Sybil : Basil, don’t be so pathetic. Now look after this nice young couple while I go and check that chef’s got the Babylonian Beef burgers under way. Polly come with me for a moment would you.  (Sybil and Polly exit)
Basil : If he’s short of old cow tell him not to bother going out to the butchers.  (Unaware of the couple, moves  behind the counter and begins writing some accounts)
Joseph : Excuse me.
Basil : (startled) Yes. What is it?
Joseph : Ah, we’d like a room.
Basil : I’d like a holiday on the Aegean, but we can’t always get want we want now can we?
Joseph : Just one room for a couple of nights.
Basil : Oh, is that all? You’re sure you wouldn’t care for the deluxe suite with hot and cold running maids and camel-hair stuffed mattresses. (Joseph and Mary exchange confused looks, uncertain about this outburst) Oh, never mind. Look I’m sorry but we’re full.
Mary : Full?
Basil : Yes full. Didn’t you see the si…. Oh no, of course you didn’t. (shakes fist in the general direction of Manuel)  I’m afraid you’ll have to go, we couldn’t even fit in a one-armed anorexic dwarf.
Joseph : But my wife, she’s …”
Basil : Are you deaf? Do I have to spell it out? We … have … no … room! I can’t be clearer than that.
(Sybil enters and moves towards desk.)
Joseph : Can’t you see that my wife is expecting her baby at any moment.
Basil : Well I’m very sorry, but that’s not my responsibility. (to himself) If you’d managed a little more self-control.
Joseph : (becoming indignant and louder) Look, you just don’t understand.
Sybil : What’s the matter Basil.
Basil : Nothing dear, I’m dealing with it.
Sybil : Have you arranged a room for these young people?
Basil : No, my little cherubim, because as even you are aware we’re completely full up.
Sybil : Oh, yes, I had forgotten. (to couple) I’m so sorry.
Joseph : Look, we wouldn’t normally press a point it’s just that …….
Sybil : (suddenly noticing the pregnancy) Oh goodness! Look Basil, she’s going to have a baby.
Basil : Not here she’s not.
Sybil : You must sit down and rest (guiding Mary to a seat). Have you long to go?
Mary : I don’t think so. Look is there any chance we could stay, I don’t think I could walk another step.
Sybil : Of course dear. Basil will arrange something for you, I’m sure.
Basil : And will there be any other miracles you’d like carried out while I’m at it?
Sybil : (snaps) Basil!
Basil : All right. All right. Come with me; we might have something out the back.
Basil, Mary and Joseph exit.
Sybil : (calling offstage) Manuel.
Manuel : (entering) Si?
Sybil : Would you be so good as to look after the desk, I need to have a little talk with Polly.
Manuel : Que?
Sybil : Just be here if anyone comes in and tell them we’re full; they’ll have to try elsewhere.
Manuel : Hokay. Don’t you worry Mrs. Fawlty, I take charge now.
Sybil : If there’s any problem just call. (exits)
Manuel : No problem, Manuel ees boss. (obviously proud of his new-found status moves to desk and shuffles books and papers. Mr.Enoch enters, unnoticed by Manuel. Receiving no attention he rings the desk bell. Manuel jumps and papers go in all directions.)
Mr.Enoch : Can you help me?
Manuel : Que?
Mr.Enoch : (hands over his business card) I’m Enoch from the Bethlehem Tourist Board and we’re carrying out our annual inspection and accreditation of premises. We need to ensure that you are abiding by all health and hygiene regulations, and that your standard of service is up to the mark.
Manuel : (unsure of what he has just been told but replies very formally) I am sorry but I am fool.
Mr.Enoch : What’d you say?
Manuel : You must go to the ailswear.
Mr.Enoch : Now look here.
Manuel : No, not here – there.
Mr.Enoch : I’m not sure if you realise it, but being deliberately obstructive could see you losing a star off your rating.
(Basil re-enters from back.)
Basil : What’s going on here?
Manuel : I tell meester eunuch he must go, we are fool, no room.
Basil : Yes, that’s right. Completely chocker. Sorry, goodbye (ushering Mr.Enoch to door).
Manuel : (with a new confidence now he has Basil’s support) You take your touring broad ailswear. We have no expectation of promises here.
Basil : What?
Manuel : You take your card (holds it out to Mr.Enoch but it is snatched by Basil who reads it with growing alarm) and please not to come back with loose stars.
Basil : Shut up.
Manuel : Que?
Basil : Shut (clips Manuel around the head) up! I’m so sorry Mr. Enoch but you know how difficult it is to get good help. (with fawning manner) Now how can I help you?
Mr.Enoch : (pulling clipboard out of satchel) Well Mr…. (checks name on sheet) Fawlty, as I tried to tell your assistant we’re carrying out our annual inspection to ensure that all regulations are being observed and tourists being well provided for.
Basil : I’m sure you will find everything up to scratch around here.
Mr.Enoch : For your sake I hope so. We haven’t actually got off to a very good start have we? (Basil glares at Manuel, threatens to hit him again at which point he scurries out of the room) Now I need to ensure that all your guests have the very best conditions in which to stay. Everything spick and span and, above all, hygienic.
Basil : Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. And may I say that we here at the Bethlehem Fawlty fully support all your efforts to improve the standards of the accommodation industry.
Mr.Enoch : (a little dubiously) Yes.
Basil : I think you will find that we will more than surpass your requirements. In fact some have remarked that the floors in their rooms were so clean they could eat a meal off them. (laughs with slight embarrassment but then realizes this could be taken wrongly) But of course we discourage the consumption of food anywhere except the dining room.
(Sybil re-enters.)
Mr.Enoch : I would like to think so. May I take a look around?
Basil : You may indeed, perhaps you would like to begin upstairs. (Mr.Enoch gathers up his satchel)
Sybil : Basil, where have you put that young couple, I do want to check that she’s all right. (notices Mr.Enoch) Oh, good afternoon. I trust my husband is looking after you.
Mr.Enoch : I think we’re beginning to make progress.
Sybil : Please excuse me, but I just need to check on our latest arrivals. Basil, where is our mother-to-be?
Basil : (jerks his head in the direction of the back door and mumbles very quietly and incoherently) Out the back.
Sybil : Basil, speak clearly, I can hardly hear you.
Basil : (indicating to Sybil behind Mr.Enoch’s back that he is an inspector. Mimes putting on cap and saluting, pretending to peer through binoculars, and wiping a surface to inspect for dust and then smacking hand)
Sybil : Basil what are you doing. This is no time for charades if a guest is nearing delivery.
Mr.Enoch : What’s this?
Basil : Sorry? Oh you’re asking about the delivery, ah, of …. (thinks furiously) … of our souvenir samples. Yes, we’re always thinking of ways to provide for the tourists. Nic-knacks, mementoes, we have quite a selection. There are little bottles of Jordan water.…..
Sybil : Basil what are you on about. (to Mr.Enoch) I can’t keep up with him sometimes. No it’s quite exciting, we’re about to have a birth, on the premises.
Basil : (who has been frantically gesticulating to stop Sybil talking) Of …. a calf. Yes, the old heifer in the barnyard, finally getting around to producing. I’ve been saying for some time it’s …..
Sybil : You really worry me at times. Now just where have you put our budding parents? I don’t like to think of them being on their own at a time like this.
Basil : (agitatedly looking around, desperate for a way out.) Ah ….. they’ve gone.
Sybil : Gone?
Basil : Yes, just up and off. Would you believe it. Some people! Tch! (silence as Sybil gives an unbelieving look)
Joseph : (entering at haste) Excuse me, I think we may need a little help.
Basil : (looking guiltily at Sybil) Oh, you mean that couple?
Sybil : (to Basil) I shall be back to speak to you. (to Joseph) Come along, and don’t worry, everything will be fine. (they go to exit) Oh, Just a minute. (calls back through kitchen door) Polly, will you bring out some hot water. (to Joseph who is rather agitated) I’d be right in saying this is a first time for you. (Joseph nods as they exit)
Mr.Enoch : I’m not sure if I’m reading this situation correctly because if my suspicions are correct you are possibly breaching some of the health regulations, not to mention attempting to mislead a local body official.
Basil : Would you care for a drink? Nice glass of Chateau Euphrates. Our private bar is through here.
Mr.Enoch : (unmoved) Mr. Fawlty please explain what is going on out the back of your hotel. What is happening with this young couple that is causing such concern – and what is the need for hot water?
Basil : (pauses, thinking desperately) They’re filthy.
Mr.Enoch : Filthy?
Basil : Absolutely! Filthy! We’re cleaning them down before letting them inside. Riff raff of course, common as muck. But my wife will insist on taking in all comers. If I had my way we would set some standards – but try telling Sybil. Might as well talk to a dromedary. Hopeless. Tch!
Polly : (enters with a basin of hot water) Where does Mrs. Fawlty want this? Is it to do with the lady who’s having the baby? Isn’t it exciting!
Basil : (hurrying her along) Don’t know what you’re on about, Polly. Sybil’s out the back, you’d better get to her smartly. (pushes Polly out the back door)
Mr.Enoch : Mr. Fawlty I have to say my concerns are growing. I don’t think you’re being altogether straightforward about some of these goings-on.
Basil : Look I can explain, it’s all quite simple ……
Manuel : (also enters with basin of hot water) Polly! (looks around foyer) She not here. She ask for baby water and she not here.
Basil doubles up in distress and with whimpering noises.
Mr.Enoch : I think you might be wanted out the back. By the way, what is out the back?
Manuel : Oh, just the stable, few hanimules, chooks.
Mr.Enoch : I see.  (Manuel exits) Mr. Fawlty. (Basil whimpers a little more plaintively)  Oh pull yourself together man!
(Basil straightens up)  I hardly like to ask it’s so irregular, but is there a woman giving birth in your establishment?  I couldn’t say that I approve of course and I would have to be assured that if this is the case, she is in the cleanest and most hygienic of surroundings. Not, for instance, in a barn.
Basil : Birth – in a barn?  (gives an embarrassed and forced laugh)  Whatever would you think of us if we let that sort of thing go on?
Mr.Enoch : Indeed! (bell sounds off stage)  What’s that?
Basil : Oh, must be cook letting the guests know dinner’s ready.
Mr.Enoch : Really? Well if that’s the time I’m going to have to go. Perhaps we might say you have been saved by the bell, Mr. Fawlty. However, I’ll be back in a day or so and trust that everything will be completely in order at that time.
Basil : (seeing Mr. Enoch to the door) I can assure you there will not be one cause for concern. Goodbye.
(As Mr.Enoch is about to leave Manuel rushes in from the back.)
Manuel : Ees wonderful! Ees a little baby boy.
Basil : Thank you Manuel, that will be all.
Manuel : But you must come look see.
Mr.Enoch : I don’t want to know. (exits)
Sybil and Polly enter from the back.
Sybil : Basil, have you heard? Oh it’s so lovely.
Basil : Sybil, whatever has been going on out the back I do not wish to hear about. In fact for the future of our business no-one must hear about it. If some promiscuous maiden has produced progeny on our premises it must remain the best kept secret in Palestine. We can’t afford for this to get out, do I make myself perfectly clear?
(A shepherd enters at the same time as the telephone rings and Polly goes to answer it, having a brief conversation.)
Shepherd : ‘Scuse me; know where there’s been a baby born?
Basil : I don’t believe what I’m hearing.
Manuel : Baby? Ees out in the stable.
Shepherd : Oh great! (calling out the door he has just entered) Yeah, this is the place lads, come on in. Oh, don’t forget to wipe your feet.
Basil : (slowly resuming his crouched position) No. No. No. No.
Polly : Mr. Fawlty, there’s a foreign-sounding gentleman on the phone wanting to book ahead – three single rooms. Said something about a star too; I told him we had a four star rating in the accommodation guide.
Basil : We’ll be lucky to finish up with one star at this rate. Look, you must all promise that not a word of this will leak out, not so much as an inkling.
(Reporter enters.)
Reporter : Hello, bit of a gathering here. I’m from the Bethlehem Herald, heard there was a bit of a scoop in the offing. Mind if I do a story?
(All freeze in surprise, then look up in amazement as recorded music is heard [‘For unto us a Child is born’ from Handel’s ‘Messiah’]. Basil buries his head in his hands. Handel fades out and ‘Fawlty Towers’ theme music fades in for curtain call.)
Copyright David Winfield, all rights reserved.
This script may be used free of royalty, provided no admission charge is made. In return for free performance, the author would like to be notified of any performance. He may be contacted at