This joyous adventure of friendship comes to Milton Keynes Theatre this week. This wonderful play boasts a stunning cast including Hayley Mills, Paul Nicholas and Rula Lenska. The set is stunning and the whole show actually is a perfect advert for booking a trip to India.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is Sonny’s idea of making a successful business after his father dies. He feels responsible to look after his mum and works non-stop to make his hotel a perfect alternative destination for British retirees. When his first customers arrive, he realises it’s a bigger job than he first thought and on top of this his mother wants him to marry for money rather than for love.
Paul Nicholas plays downtrodden Douglas. His wife, Jean (Eileen Battye) is quite bossy and he feels he has had enough. Douglas’ struggle is brilliantly delivered by Paul, who plays Douglas rather posh, which for fans of Just Good Friends will find a change from his most famous role. It is a joy to see Paul on stage back in Milton Keynes (where I saw him in Fiddler On The Roof many years ago). Hayley Mills plays Evelyn and she has lost her husband who lost all their money so she cannot afford to live in England anymore. She feels angry yet is a quiet, sweet lady who is trying to find her way. Hayley is an exceptional actor and delivers Evelyn so beautifully, quietly growing in her character as Evelyn builds her own confidence. Superb.
Rula Lenska plays Madge and is a fireball on stage. Madge is rather outspoken and Rula plays her perfectly, making the audience laugh at her comments. I think Rula has been pilfering through my wardrobe as I loved all her outfits. Poor Norman, retired assistant accountant, is lonely as his wife left him for another accountant. Norman is played by Andy De La Tour and his blunt way of speaking is very funny. Muriel is the typical British tourist who doesn’t like Indian food, doesn’t really want to see outside of the hotel and isn’t really happy to be there. Of course, as we get to know Muriel, we find out she was a cleaner and feels for the cleaner at the hotel. Beautifully played by Marline Sidaway, she gets a lot of the funny one-liners. Dotty is played by Richenda Carey and we are not sure what is going on at first. We wonder if its dementia, but you will find out more in the second half and Dotty has secrets.
Nishad More is outstanding as Sonny. Nishad strikes that fine balance between doing his best and running a business and keeping his mum and his secret girlfriend happy. You can’t help but feel sorry for him. His mum, Mrs Kapoor is played by Rekkha John-Cheriyan and is fantastic delivering us a stereotype South Asian mother who wants her son to look after her and if he has to marry, it should be her choice not his. Rekha is just wonderful in the role and I especially enjoyed her fake tears when she needs sympathy. Sonny’s girlfriend, Sahani and is played by Shila Iqbal. Not only is Shila stunning, but her delivery of Sahani is excellent, giving us sassy, a woman who stands up for herself.
So many truths told on this stage. How you still feel 34 when you are much older; how getting old just catches up on you and the young don’t understand. It’s a wonderful heartfelt story about making friends, falling in love and living until the very end. In this cold, bleak January, what could be better than to be whisked away to a warmer climate for a few hours. There is even a bit of Bollywood dancing! This show comes with a mascara warning and I cannot deny that I had a tear in my eye as I left the theatre.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is at Milton Keynes Theatre until 28 January.