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REVIEW: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham
Tonight, I was at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham to see Deborah Moggach’s celebrated show, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a production based on the Sunday Times bestseller and the well-known cinematic box office hit.
Opening in October 1891 to a production of Lady Clancarty, the Everyman Theatre is still a delightful place to go 132 years later! The main auditorium is an intimate space with 675 seats, architectural elegance, a beautiful ceiling, and a decorative proscenium arch – the window to ballet, dance, comedy, music and more. Tonight, the Everyman Theatre acted as a portal to India.
I have never read the book but have enjoyed the film on many occasions and was excited to see how the show would fare in a theatre setting. I was also interested in seeing how the show would portray India too. It was an absolute delight to see what is, essentially, a story of life and love reimagined so brilliantly by Lucy Bailey.
As soon as I took my seat I could see people streaming in to see the show. There was excitement in the air and the usual hubbub that you experience at the theatre. The chatter of the crowd hushed as the lights dimmed and the start of the show was highlighted by a single sentence in Hindi, followed by music.
The curtain gave way to one of the most stunning sets that I have seen, a space that would provide theatre goers with a vacation for the mind. This stage was soon filled by the main characters – an eclectic mix of British retirees who are travelling around 5,000 miles from London to Bengaluru and their new home, the Marigold Hotel.
As with the film, each individual has a story to tell, with a new start giving us a chance to see them adapt to their less than opulent but charming and colourful surroundings. Unlike the film, we get to see a new perspective, with the stage providing a platform that highlights how life in India is different to a life in the UK, and how some things are the same. This is all done with a subtle mixture of tragedy and comedy.
On a technical note, the show was flawless. The cast was brilliant simply because each character was believable – I did not see Tessa Peake-Jones from Only Fools and Horses or Kriss Dosanjh from Emmerdale, but Evelyn and Jimmy. The lighting and sound were impeccable, making the reality of modern-day India come to life. I loved hearing the call to prayer, background noise and music, and seeing the shift in light that signalled rise and fall of the sun as the days passed. It was nice to experience the subtle hints to India, too, like the mention of Thumbs Up (cola). If you go you will see that there are some very poignant parts that acknowledge cultural differences which are part of life in India.
I now sit here with a cup of tea in hand and wish I was back in my theatre seat experiencing it all over again. The fact is that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel reminds you to acknowledge the unsaid, to leave regret in the past and to grasp the joy in life!
If you want your spirits lifted and an evening of colour and movement, I whole-heartedly recommend that you take a trip to India via The Everyman Theatre from the 27th February to the 4th March 2023.
Review by Julia
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