Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, New Theatre, Cardiff

Andy Howells reviews The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, written by Deborah Moggach and directed by Lucy Bailey, playing Cardiff’s New Theatre until March 11.

Exchanging a wintery South Wales evening for a hotel in India may seem the stuff of dreams, but that’s exactly what my son and I did on Wednesday evening when we checked in to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Cardiff’s New Theatre.

Deborah Moggach’s comedy drama about an eclectic group of British retirees, embarking on a new life in India, pulled me in from the opening moments.

Sonny Kapoor dotes on his mother and is keen to take over his late father’s hotel business and make it a success. Hitting on the idea of turning the hotel into a residential paradise for British retirees, the first intake arrives only to find out it is far from the luxurious haven they were promised.

However, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel begins to weave its magic as the residents’ lives intertwine, not only with each other, but also their new friends who live in and around the hotel in new, challenging and exciting ways.

While its easy to assume that the bunch of weary travellers checking in to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are all passed their sell-by dates, it soon becomes apparent that there is great depth to everyone. Backgrounds vary from abandoned mother to cheated-on husband, widowed partners, a married couple that have fallen out of love with each other and someone almost given up on life. Yet all have a burning desire to find a new purpose, escaping their lives in Britain for new beginnings in India. Similarly, old and young residents in their exotic homeland are also looking for new beginnings making this coming together of cultures and generations touching and heart-warming as the story unfolds.

Tessa Peake-Jones’ Evelyn quickly steps out from the shadows of louder characters and blossoms as the story unfolds. Her friendship with Paul Nicholas’ Douglas is a joy to watch, particularly as he wants to be more open about his opiniated wife played by Eileen Battye. One of my favourite moments is Nicholas as Douglas leaving the temple and bumping into Evelyn, a moment that says so much by saying so little. On the other extreme is Belinda Lang’s colourful portrayal of Madge, a character who isn’t afraid to put people in their place. Miss Lang brings an unbounding energy and presence to her role that is a joy to behold.

The faultless performances don’t just stop with these fine actors. Like all great comedies, this is truly an ensemble piece. Rekha John-Cheriyan and Nishad More display lots of comic timing in their mother and son relationship as the Kapoor’s, while Shila Iqbal adds an additional energy and fun as Sonny’s girlfriend, Sahani.

Marlene Sidaway is suitably cantankerous as Muriel, before undertaking a remarkable transition, while Paola Dionisotti gives a memorable performance as Dorothy, a character haunted by her past. Graham Seed delivers humour to the dapper, but rather uncool Norman, as Tiraan Aakel doubles up as the entrepreneurial Mr Gupta and chaotic cook.

The sound scaping and set design of the Marigold Hotel capture an idealistic essence of India, while the lighting gives the production a cinematic feel.

A heart-warming and an unmissable piece of feelgood theatre, ensure you book a performance for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at Cardiff’s New Theatre this week, it will fill your heart with joy!

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