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Best Exotic Marigold - Filled with Emotion and Laughter

New company of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Photo (c) Mikal Ludlow Photography.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, adapted from These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach. Playing at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, from Tuesday 13 June – Saturday 17 June 2023

Review by Maxine Burns.

Take a bunch of British pensioners. Take a vast mysterious country, thousands of miles from home. Take a hot evening at the theatre and prepare to be transported to The Best Exotic Marigold hotel. Welcome!

It is said that behind every Indian man there is his mother and this is true of Sonny (Nishad More) and his, Mrs Kapoor (Rekha John-Cheriyan). Sonny is persuaded to open the family home as a residential hotel for British pensioners as they have no money for its upkeep. The pensioners duly arrive, bowed down with broken dreams, arthritis and stiff upper lips.

Rekha John-Cheriyan as Mrs Kapoor. Photo (c_ Mikal Ludlow Photography.

Madge, played by Belinda Lang (2 Point 4 Children) feels that life has passed her by. Dorothy, played by Paola Dionisotti (Holby City, Game of Thrones) is looking for her stolen childhood. Douglas, played by Paul Nicholas (Jesus Christ Superstar, Just Good Friends, Eastenders) is stuck with a wife he no longer likes, let alone loves. Along with the other ex-pats they begin their journey of looking for a happy ending – a last crack at life. Can they change their lives for the better?

They settle in, disgruntled at the Marigold’s lack of finesse. This isn’t how the brochures depicted it! The food is a mish mash of what the Indian cook considers to be English food – rissoles and toad in a hole. They have to get used to the heat, the noise, the Delhi Belly.

Anant Varman as Mohan and Kerena Jagpal as Kamila. Photo (c) Mikal Ludlow Photography.

Despite themselves, they begin to integrate, hesitantly adopting clothes more suitable to the Indian climate, they go out, mix with the locals, even try the food. They go to bars, drink too much gin, fall in love. They are having the time of their lives – old? Us? We’ve just been young for a very long time!

Disaster strikes with the prospective sale of the Marigold. The Kapoors have been unable to raise the money needed to pay for its upkeep. The pensioners will have to return to the UK. No way! They decide that they will use their skills to save it, at the same time realizing that they have no one but each other. But can they save it?

Tessa Peake-Jones (Evelyn), Paola Dionisotti (Dorothy), Shila Iqbal (Sahani) and Belinda Lang (Madge). Photo (c) Mikal Ludlow Photography.

The play addresses the issues of being old, the Indian caste system and racism with a light hand. The fact that many British pensioners have no one to care for them in their old age has become a real problem, is this one solution?

With such a star-studded cast, it goes without saying that the actors play their parts to perfection and with conviction. The set is perfect for the story, the arched windows and balconies of the old India, the lights and hints of sunshine become a part of the story.This feelgood play, filled with emotion, laughter and colour, will stay with you for a very long time.

Tessa Peake- Jones as Evelyn and Paul Nicholas as Douglas. Photo (c) Mikal Ludlow Photography.

Director, Lucy Bailey portrays the story magnificently, showing the potential we all have for growth, even in old age and how the future can still bring surprise and pleasure.

The composer, Kuljit Bhamra, uses a blend of Indian classical, British Bhangra and Bollywood to enhance the atmosphere of a modern-day India.


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