The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel UK Tour Review - Theatre Royal Plymouth
Please note - The photographs in this review feature the original cast, not the cast that are currently starring in the production
It isn’t uncommon for stage productions these days to have had other lives before they even reach the stage itself, with screen to stage adaptations becoming increasingly popular and the idea of audience members having some idea of what to expect helping to put bums on seats. In the case of this particular production, it was Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel ‘These Foolish Things’ that inspired the 2011 movie ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, which stared a plethora of household names from Judi Dench and Bill Nighy to Maggie Smith and Dev Patel. This movie, in turn, inspired this stage production which has been touring since last year.
The production follows the story of a group of British Senior Citizens who decide to live out the rest of their lives at a residential hotel in Bangalore, India, run by the not long windows Mrs Kapoor and her son Sonny. Between them, the group discovers that there is more to life than growing old, embracing the culture of their new home, learning about each other, and coming to terms with all that they have faced.
A blend of different characters with very different personalities creates a believable tale. Tessa Peake-Jones’ Evelyn is shy but determined. She knows that there is more out there, she’s just not sure how or where to find it, the polar opposite to the confident flirtatious Madge, played by Belinda Lang who earns many a laugh throughout. Muriel, played by Marlene Sidaway, is your stereotypical ‘stuck in her ways’ old women, refusing to eat Indian food and complaining about the heat, but that doesn’t stop the character from having her own adventure. Graham Seed’s Norman is all talk, refusing to let his age get in the way when it comes to the pretty local girls and speaking with no filter to those around him whilst Paola Dionisotti’s Dorothy comes to India on a journey of discovery. Married couple Jean and Douglas, played by Eileen Battye and Paul Nicholas, want to learn about the culture in their surroundings, but is that shared interest all that they have?
It is Nishad More’s performance as Sonny that gives this production its energetic heart, buzzing around the stage with an almost childlike energy, promising the hotel guests that issues will be fixed ‘in a jiffy’ and trying his best to keep his demanding overbearing mother (played by Rekha John-Cheriyan) happy. As Sonny claims ‘behind every Indian man is his mother’, this relationship provides many laughs as Mrs Kapoor uses a variety of different techniques to keep her son at home with her rather than meeting Shila Igbal’s local girl from the call centre Sahani.
I have to praise Colin Richmond, the costume and set designer of the production, here for his set becomes a star in its own right. Cleverly it appears to be much larger than it actually is, a once grand house that has fallen on hard times. Various doors off the main area invite the audience to think of what lies beyond, lights draped across the stage giving a cosy glow and something about the entire space feels as if it is welcoming you in explore.
The story itself weaves comedy with heart, romance with strife, the ups and the downs. It explores various topics, with the idea of growing old and how to embrace it at the centre. Do you accept that idea of simply disappearing, or do you decide to reinvent yourself in the golden years? Do you follow your heart or follow what is expected of you? It’s a game of choice and one that will have you laughing and willing each and every character on throughout.