Based upon the 2004 novel: These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, and its subsequent, much-loved film adaptation: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011, director: John Madden): this November sees its transference to the stage at the Lowry in a warm-up run before hitting the West-End…and some would say – owing to how easily the story suits this more intimate arrangement – that it is a long overdue interpretation.
Also written by Deborah Moggach, and directed by Lucy Bailey (Much Ado About Nothing): the story centres around a group of British pensioners, who, upon realising that old Blighty offers little in the way of prospects for their twilight years, decide to embark upon one last adventure to India to live out the remainder of their lives at the idyllic and romantic sounding, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the elderly and beautiful.
It features a cast of seasoned stage and screen veterans including, Academy, BAFTA, and Golden Globe award winner, Hayley Mills (Wild at Heart) as the recently widowed Evelyn, Paul Nicholas (Jesus Christ Superstar) as the disillusioned in love Douglas, Rula Lenska (Rock Follies) as the irrepressible Madge, and Andy de la Tour (Medea and Celebration) as the lascivious Norman.
Marlene Sidaway (Pride and Prejudice) also does a wonderful turn as Muriel, whose redemption arc from intolerance of all things foreign, to her eventual embracing of her new home, is as heart-warming as it was on screen when portrayed by the great Maggie Smith.
Each of the time-worn travellers is in search of something different from their new home…Be it for love, resolution of things left undone; or coming in search of spiritual enlightenment…the hotel, and India itself, offers a chance at one last adventure for the disillusioned group, and promises an experience they will never forget.
So it is that the group depart England, and upon their arrival at the hotel – run by the energetic and hopeful, Sonny, played by Nishad More (Hamlet) and his overbearing mother, Mrs Kapoor, played by Rekha John-Cheriyan (Kerbs): the accommodation is far from what was advertised.
The group nonetheless soon become a tightly knit family as the vitality and spirituality of their new home, and of their hosts, starts to have an everlasting impact on their outlook.
The hotel itself is stunningly realised by stage designer, Colin Richmond, who does a wonderful job of presenting the faded opulence and grandiosity of the once grand hotel – an overt metaphor for the guests it now hosts… and as life returns to its crumbling foundations, so it does for its occupants.
Uplifted by Sonny, and his girlfriend, Sahani, played with youthful exuberance by Shila Iqbal (East is East) – the plucky pensioners find new purpose in their lives and integrate into the lives of the people who, until recently, had been nothing more than a voice on the telephone from a call centre, half a world away.
The show features a joyful and uplifting bhangra score by composer, Kuljit Bhamra that buoys the spirits and really shows off the vibrancy and vitality of their new home as the intrepid OAPS fully immerse themselves in the flavours and customs of their new retirement community.
Touching on themes of colonialism, agency for the aged, generational divides, and the inherent differences between two nations that are so closely, yet distantly (literally as well as figuratively) connected: it is a heart-warming and gentle comedy that brings a little bit of everything to the theatre experience.
Laugh-out-loud funny, emotionally resonant, and with an undertone of social commentary – it has all the charm and life-affirming qualities that have held its source material in such high regard for so many years.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel runs at the Lowry from the 9th to the 12th of November. Tickets from £16. BSL and Audio described performances available.