This is a beautiful tale about a group of people in their twilight years who come to India to stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which has been set up as a retirement home because its cheaper than staying in the UK. Throughout the play we learn about the trials and tribulations in the past lives of the characters and how they gradually change from being unhappy with the arrangements and the fact that the hotel is effectively falling down, to becoming a family and wanting to stay forever.
It was such a pleasure to see this heart warming play at The Milton Keynes Theatre last night! And I was delighted to see some of my favourite actors on stage. Haley Mills played Evelyn. I have been a fan of Hayley since she was a child actor in Pollyanna and The Parent Trap but I have never seen her do anything live on stage. She was delightful, playing Evelyn with such sensitivity but also great strength and her scenes with the young people who were trying to improve their English because they worked in the call centre, were both funny and touching.
Rula Lenska played Madge, the glamorous single woman who is always on the lookout for men and fun. Madge had some of the best lines in the play and Rula Lenska absolutely made the most of them - cutting and witty, she garnered more laughs than any other character!
Douglas and Jean were the married couple who were into travelling and adventure. Beautifully played by Paul Nicholas and Eileen Battye respectively, she dragged him around all the sites, bossed him around and never let him get a word in edgeways. The scene when Douglas went to see the Holy Man and confessed that he couldn’t spend the rest of is life with Jean was very moving and we felt so very sorry for him.
Richenda Carey played Dorothy, the old cockney lady beautifully. She spent the whole time telling every one that she couldn't eat Indian food! She befriended the cleaner who bought Indian food in for her and she found that she loved it! She also had some wonderful dialogue.
The other cockney character was Norman, played by Andy de la Tour. There was a hint of “Jack the Lad” about him and as it turned out he hadn’t told the truth about his background to the rest of the residents! Andy de la Tour has a gorgeous, rich, beautifully modulated voice which sat very well with his character.
Muriel was a fascinating character, played so well by Marlene Sidaway. She had been brought up as a young child in India and was actually trying to revisit all the places she had been as a child. However she told no one this until quite near the end of the play and everyone thought she was suffering from dementia!
Rekha John-Cheriyan and Nishad More played Mrs Kapoor and Sonny Kapoor respectively. They ran the hotel and their playing of the stressful situation of trying to deal with the hotel falling down and Sonny falling in love with the beautiful Sahani, played by Shila Iqbal, was wonderful!
The Indian staff were all excellent and their cleaning of the hotel combined with moving furniture on the set was both believable and slick.
If I have one tiny criticism, it’s the fact that the play is constructed in such a way that everyone’s story has to wrap up in the last ten minutes. If just felt a bit rushed and I would have liked the the different dramatic conclusions of the characters to be explored in a little more detail.
But altogether it was a lovely evening watching such a well written, well performed play!
4 out of 5
Reviewer Julia Rufey