The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Being of a more mature age myself & having enjoyed the 2011 film adaptation of author & screenwriter Deborah Moggach`s best-selling 2004 novel `These Foolish Things` I was very much looking forward to seeing the stage play of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The film has been seen by millions around the world so the storyline should by now be familiar to many. An assortment of elderly group of British men & women, some abandoned by their children,  disenchanted with the country of their birth, decide they want a change, a new experience & to some extent a much cheaper lifestyle. Half of them have been widowed & are looking for a new meaning or significance to their lives. They are all searching for something different, but it is how their lives begin to interconnect in unforeseen & life-charming ways that becomes the core of their story.

I was easily transported to the hot, crowded dusty streets of India by a superb set & the scene setting music of the Indian sub-continent as they embarked on a new life to India. It is fair to say the group are underwhelmed with their accommodation but there are a lot of laughs along the way as they get to know each other’s life stories & expectations. The Marigold Hotel is a comedy with serious undertones.

It is a tale about grabbing life & taking on new adventures, whatever your age, even when family, friends & society may think you’re past it. The show clearly struck a chord with the predominantly elderly audience who laughed at almost every joke with nodding approval & agreement. The audience loved it! There is a great deal of humour, comedy, romance & sadness in the play, emotions that everyone can easily relate to. At the risk of using a well-worn cliché, Age should not be a barrier it’s just a number! This play is a great evening of theatre for both our more elderly citizens & the young!

Jean (Eileen Battye) and Douglas (Paul Nicholas) are the “smug married couple”, yet it soon becomes clear that Douglas no longer loves his wife, and he quickly begins to develop a romantic friendship with the anxious Evelyn (Tessa Peake – Jones) who is lacking in confidence since losing her husband.

The magnificent Madge (Belinda Lang) hauled in many of the laughs, a feisty temptress on the lookout for a rich man after the deaths of her previous three husbands.

Muriel (Marlene Sidaway) bonds with a cleaner Mohan ( Anant Varman – making his professional UK stage debut), one of the `untouchables` at the hotel. This encounter changes her perception of Indian society, its people & food completely. A heart-warming moment which the audience clearly approved of!

The group is completed by the irritable Norman (Graham Seed) who first of all tells the group his wife was dead. He later confides to the group & Mrs Kapoor (Rekha John-Cheriyan) that his wife was indeed still alive having left him for another man. His pride was hurt, and he found it difficult to tell anyone his secret.

Dorothy (Paola Dionisotti) whom the group suspects to be, dotty, until they learn all about her childhood history with Jimmy (Harmage Singh Kalirai).

The delightfully high – spirited Sonny Kapoor (Nishad More) is running the hotel in the shadow of his father who has died & left his mother. His performance was energetic & convincing, sometimes holding the threads of the story together flawlessly.Unfortunately, the devoted mother-son relationship causes problems with Sonny’s love interest, Sahani (Shila Iqbal) the attractive call centre worker who works down the road.

The show celebrates age while also refusing to shy away from the difficulties & loneliness that some people discover in later age.  There is a wonderful line from Muriel. Being young or old has its problems, just get on with it! The characters all struggle with their physical ailments, some the loss of their loved ones, but they all show how life can still offer passion, excitement & adventure in your retirement & later years.

There were a number of excellent performances, with more specific credit going to Nishad More, Belinda Lang, Rekha John-Cheriyan, Tessa Peake – Jones & Graham Seed.

The cast of fourteen were rightly given a standing ovation at the end of the show to rapturous applause. I loved it, be sure to catch it while you can!

Starring Belinda Lang (2 Point 4 Children, Oklahoma!), Paul Nicholas (Jesus Christ Superstar, Just Good Friends, Eastenders), Tessa Peake-Jones (Only Fools and Horses) and Graham Seed (The Archers, The Mousetrap). Also featuring Rekha John-Cheriyan (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Tomb Raider, Hollyoaks), Nishad More (King Lear, My Mother’s Wedding) and Marlene Sidaway (Coronation Street, Pride and Prejudice).

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel continues at Royal & Derngate, Northampton until Saturday 13th May 2023. Duration: 130 minutes including an interval