The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has now taken to the stage and at present is on its grand tour of the country before heading for the West End – where it should do very well if the packed house and response from the audience at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre is anything to go by.
Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, has been made into a spectacularly successful film starring Judy Dench, Maggie Smith and Bill Nighy which led to a sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel starring Richard Gere and then on to a television series, The Real Marigold Hotel.
The script for the stage has been updated by writer Moggach with mobiles and Skyping to the fore, but otherwise it retains all its original charm with a stunning set featuring that crumbling old colonial hotel with every attention to detail.
Kuljit Bhamra’s mood evocative Bhangra music with sound and lighting vividly conjure up the sounds and sights of Bangalore on a static stage.
A large cast of top rate actors, both old and young, have come together to ensure this production will please most, but of course it is the ‘grey brigade’ of theatre goers who will have greater empathy with the pensioners who have decided on adventure before dementia.
The play opens with Sonny Kapoor, an enthusiastic if somewhat incompetent young man trying to cajole his mother into agreeing to his bright idea to save the old hotel. Mrs Kapoor (Rekha John-Cheriyan) is not convinced that turning their property into a home for British pensioners is the way forward, but decide to give a go as after all nobody in the UK really has much time or space for old people.
Fast forward, as this play does throughout, to a group of retirees arriving in Bangalore hoping to escape loneliness and the dreaded care home – a couple of them are even hoping to find romance. Man-mad Madge, somewhat over-blown and blousy, wouldn’t say no to a wealthy maharaja and retired accountant. Norman is also looking forward to a sexual encounter or two. Here are two great comic roles made the most of by Rula Lenska and Andy de la Tour.
Haley Mills, a child star in the ‘60s and now in her 70s, plays Evelyn a sweet-natured widow who has never really found herself, but once in India finds her forte gently organising the young people at the local call centre as well as the staff and her compatriots.
The only married couple are Douglas (Paul Nicholas) and Jean (Julie Wood), a rather strident, if somewhat odd, Dorothy (Richenda Carey) plus a disgruntled old Murial (Marlene Sidaway) make up the rest of the party.
The Hotel might not be all they envisaged and food unpalatable, but in the heat and turmoil of their new surroundings they do find friendship and eventually a purpose to their lives.
Not only does the action move swiftly from one short scene to another, there is a roller coaster of emotions to deal with as the various characters bring love, laughter and pathos to this production directed by Lucy Bailey.
Do try and see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel if you can, even if it means waiting until it arrives in London – it is worth it.
After its five day run at The New Victoria Theatre, Woking (November 15-19), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel next comes to local stages at Chichester Festival Theatre (January 31 to February 4), Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford (April 25-29), and The Mayflower, Southampton (May 23-27). For tickets, see here.
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