By: Sam Tucker, TRP Reviewer
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a feel-good comedy about a group of strangers who venture to India in their retirement. There they discover friendship, shared experiences and realise that it’s never too late to start afresh.
Based on the film, which was in turn based on These Foolish Things written by Deborah Moggach, the story follows seven over seventies who leave England to live out their days in Bangalore. Their various stories are weaved around the central themes of loss, family and future, including of the hotel itself and its owners.
The aging residents are an eclectic mix and are wonderfully acted by a star cast, many of whom will be remembered from popular television and radio shows. Belinda Lang (2 Point 4 Children), Paul Nicholas (Just Good Friends, EastEnders), Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses) and Graham Seed (The Archers) are joined by Eileen Battye, Paola Dionisotti and Marlene Sidaway. All seven portray their characters superbly, with comedy and pathos in equal measure.
Rekha John-Cheriyan and Nishad More play Mrs Kapoor and Sonny Kapoor who run the hotel with humour on the surface, although we also see their family struggles as they navigate their new dynamic after bereavement. Both characters are beautifully portrayed, and we feel their ongoing power struggle and tensions and celebrate with them as they begin to work together.
For me, Lang and Battye steal the show – as Madge who is brassy, sassy and devilishly stylish in her outfits and retorts, and as cantankerous Jean who is hot and bothered, but is one of the first residents to treat the staff of the hotel as equals which brings about beautiful and meaningful changes.
However, all the actors shine in this heart-warming play and despite the overall comedy, it touches on issues of gender, colonialism and racism. Really moving moments of change and growth make invisible characters visible, either within the staff of the hotel or through the increasing confidence of the residents as they settle into their new lives with renewed vigour.
The hotel itself is another standout star of the piece. Designed by Colin Richmond, it dominates the entire Lyric stage, with staircases leading up and down, showcasing indoor and outdoor spaces. It is breath-taking as soon as you enter the auditorium, and the cross section of the hotel offers so much detail that it is a feast for the eyes.
Richmond says, “The hotel is a character all of its own” and this is certainly achieved as a multi-layered, complex set. Coupled with beautiful costumes, also designed by Richmond, the play is rich in colour, depth and wonder. There is always a lot going on and costumes reflect the change and development of the characters. The lighting also adds to the atmosphere as the audience are not in total darkness, which gives a feeling of warmth, both in temperature and tone, to bask in.
Director Lucy Bailey says, “The play is a paean to old age” and speaks of the “instinctive connection” between old and young. The entire cast and creative team should be really proud of this jaunty celebration of life lived with adventure. It’s an uplifting, joyful show that will entertain young and old alike.
So, book your ticket, sit back, relax and enjoy this charming show.