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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Proof you can have life-changing adventures regardless of age!

Following the huge success of the original novel, the outstanding movie version of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and then finally the subsequent TV documentary, I could only hope that a play version of Deborah Moggach’s heart-warming story would equally as entertaining. I brought my mum with me last night, as a fan of the film and TV documentary she was delighted to be attend as my plus 1.

The storyline follows a group of British retirees who, seeking a better life, better weather, and the opportunity for their money to go further, set out on a journey of a lifetime and decamp to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a luxury establishment in India which promises to be a pensioner’s heaven.

The show starts with the death of Sonny Kapoor’s father and his mother’s desperation and grief with how she will manage now that her husband has died. The hotel is in a desperate situation of disrepair along with mountains of debt that only seem to be growing. Sonny (played by Nishad More) makes a promise to this grieving mother that he will step into his fathers shoes and look after her while also making the hotel a success. A big promise to make that encounters many complications along the way in the shape of love, traditions and a bunch of British retirees played by some of the best veteran stars of stage and screen.

Upon arrival at the hotel, they all quickly come to realise that it is not quite what they expected when sold the dream of relocating to the other side of the world. Run-down, with poor food and accommodation, never mind a total lack of organisation by the panic-stricken, but lovable manager Sonny, the group cannot hide their disappointment. Their generation is tough though, and so they endure their frustrations and eventually come to love their new home.

Some of the most note-worthy characters of the show are:

Evelyn (played by Tessa Peake-Jones) makes it her mission to “save” the call centre staff from their tyrannical boss and the awful working conditions. I found the inclusion of a call centre funny having once worked in a call centre myself but also because lets be honest we have all received calls from Indian call centres, where many of the agents go by Western names, something which the play touches upon in a gentle but quite comical way.

Dorothy (played by Paola Dionisotti) makes mysterious diary trips on her own and never quite tells anyone what she has done through the day, causing the others to jump to their own conclusions and versions of her exploits among themselves. All eventually becomes clear the further the show progresses, but I will not spoil it for you.

Belinda Lang is a sassy scene-stealer as Madge, a go-getter who has already seen off three husbands and is on the prowl for a rich maharaja. She strides across the stage with a sense of fun I associate with my naughty fun aunt (We all have one!). The best line of the play is probably when she declares that “one of the nice things about getting old is that I don’t give a F*CK!”.

Paul Nicholas is a hen-pecked Douglas and Eileen Battye is a smug Jean; their interactions articulately portray two people who have outgrown each other.

A special mention must go to Marlene Sidaway who absolutely stole the entire show as the loveable but grumpy, set-in-her-ways Muriel who as the show goes on you grow to love more and more. She reminded me of a dear friend of my grandparents in her mannerisms, her bluntness, her lack of filter with a bit of a cheeky sense of humour.

The strong supporting cast, playing multiple roles showed us just how versatile they are and brought a sense of realism to the piece. The stage design is phenomenal for a touring play with no detail missed. The catchy, eclectic mix of British Bhangra,

Bollywood, and classical Indian music throughout was a delight and lifted the finale to a new level. Gentle, sweet and in parts amusing, The Best Marigold Hotel is certainly worth a watch, but what I will say is stick with it past Act One, as Act Two is far more engaging and entertaining. Overall the show is light-hearted, warm and has some quite witty moments scattered throughout that leave you with a happy feeling as you leave the opera house. If you enjoyed the film version, then the play is worth a visit. Following this tour, the show is heading for London’s West End, where I have no doubt, it will go down a storm.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is on at the Grand Opera House Belfast until Saturday 10th June - tickets for the remaining shows can be got via


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