best cast

A best exotic Christmas party with sprouts vindaloo

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Wolverhampton Grand


Gentle comedies offering warm, comforting escapism are always a pleasure to watch, something to enjoy, and in these troubled times of ever rising prices and ever gloomier news they are simply a Godsend.

For a couple of hours you can forget any troubles and shelter from the winter gloom as you are transported to Bangalore in the company of a disparate bunch of old fogies whose lives have more past than future, seeking escape and cut price comfort in their twilight years.

Their destination . . . the best (a term struggling to keep a straight face) exotic (as in home for termites and ants with dilapidated plumbing, wiring, telephones and Wi-Fi) Marigold (OK, you can have that one) and as you pay for a room you can also have hotel.

The play is written by Deborah Moggach based on her hit novel These Foolish Things and the subsequent hit film and keeps the charm and human touch of both with the sort of characters we can relate to, they are like people we even know in in some cases.

There is Nishad More as Sonny Kapoor, the run off his feet owner/manager/anything-else-required of the hotel, desperately trying to keep afloat a business already sinking when his father died a year ago.

It is a lovely performance with everything always about to be done in a jiffy as he rushes around the stage like a juggler with too many balls in the air, too busy and too much under the control of his mother for the really important thing in his life, girlfriend Sahani. 

evelyn and Dougals

Tessa Peake-Jones as Evelyn in a growing friendship with Douglas, played by Paul Nicholas

His mother, played by Rekha John-Cheriyan, has a limpet like hold on his conscience and emotions. She has a daughter and son in Canada and is not about to lose her final son to a girl from a mere call centre.

She has lined Sonny up for marriage to an industrialist’s daughter with a dowry to clear the hotel’s debts and provide a comfortable retirement.  The poor old mum card, with the odd chest pain as insurance, is played at every opportunity.

As for Sahani, played by Shila Iqbal, she is attractive, modern and independent and as frustrated with Sonny as he is with his mother.

Into this sort of love triangle – well there are three of them – arrive the first batch of guests, enticed both by advertising which perhaps was a tad optimistic, and an attractive low price – after all permanent world cruises are a somewhat cheaper option than even a modest retirement home in the UK.

Tessa Peake-Jones, leaving Only Fools and Horses behind her in Peckham, arrives as Evelyn. She is quiet, perhaps even defeated after her husband died, a man too proud to have revealed they were drowning in debt. She was at the hotel as it was all she could afford. She had lost everything to pay off debts but somehow, along the way she finds her voice, speaking out for equality and those with no voice of their own.

Paul Nicholas plays Douglas, who trudges around behind wife Jean, played by Eileen Battye. The pair have travelled the world with bundle of energy Jean seeking out not just the sites but anything that could remotely be called a tourist attraction. She keeps the more urbane Doug on the shortest of leashes. You feel Doug, quiet, unassuming Doug, was once happy to follow in Jean’s wake, but now . . . that leash is starting to strangle him and feeling has been lost.

exotic trio

Tessa Peake-Jones' Evelyn with Shila Iqbal as Sahani and Belinda Lang as Madge with Paola Dionisotti as Dorothy in the background

Dorothy, played by Paola Dionisotti, is Dotty by name, and it seems by nature as she wanders around the garden at midnight singing hymns and children’s songs. Ex-BBC she has her own story which eventually she will broadcast to the other guests.

Then there is Muriel, a wonderful performance from Marlene Sidaway. Muriel is the cranky old ex-cleaner from Tooting who hates Indian food and is only there because the council shipped her off as a cost saving exercise – foreign climes being the cheapest option.

After a life of being ignored and put upon Muriel turns out to be the most considerate and tolerant of the bunch, ignoring and defying the Indian caste system by befriending the untouchable Tikal, the cleaner, played by Anant Varman.

Then there is the much-married Madge. Belinda Lang’s Madge has collected husbands as others collect stamps and with 700 million men in India, she is here for one last fling, or maybe more, who knows. Lang brings an in yer face, I’m up for it are you? Madge to the table. She is at an age when there isn’t the time to mess about with seduction, so she says and does what she thinks with that wonderful, if perhaps only benefit of old age, that she doesn’t give a . . . well at our age we don’t, so there.


Lounging in the sun, Belinda Lang as Madge

Graham Seed’s Norman is also there for . . . well he’s lost his wife, he’ll tell you all about that later, and his Indian friend has told him that Indian women appreciate (a word doing a lot of heavy lifting here) older men. So, he sees himself as sort of fulfilling a need, for the women of India more in hope and for his own more in desperation.

Hovering around we have Tiram Aakel as call centre owner come property developer Mr Gupta, also doubling as the drunken disaster Fernandes the cook. Then there are Kamila and Mohan, call centre workers, played by Kerena Jagpal and, up a few castes, Varman again, while Kriss Dosanjh is the old retainer Jimmy, who seems to be waiter and pretty much everything else at the hotel.

Not that it stops there, Dosanjh also weighs up as a holy man and has a third job as waiter at the Gymkhana Club, where Madge is on the lookout for a maharajah.

They settle into an easy routine of pleasant retirement, time gently passing until . . . a struggling hotel on a prime site, debt ridden and in dire need of renovation will always be a target for redevelopment – so time to man the barricades.

The set from Colin Richmond is a magnificent affair, the garden and courtyard of a rather rundown former Colonial era mansion filling the stage complete with a roof terrace and fairy lights.

There is also a musical accompaniment composed by Kuljit Bhamra pre-recorded by four musicians to transport us to India with Oliver Fenwick’s sympathetic lighting providing night and day, sunshine and moonlight.

It’s a book, film, it’s been on telly and celebrities have been shipped out to India to play the game for documentaries, but at its heart Deborah Moggach’s tale is a simple and very human one, a story of friendships, as sort of coming of old age tale.

Gentle, amusing with laugh out loud moments, at times poignant, at times sad, it is wonderful theatre with enough feel good to ward off any winter chill. Those in the audience of mature years will feel immediately at home, while, for younger members, look what fun awaits you once broken hips are your biggest fear and the knees start to creak!  Directed by Lucy Bailey on the front desk, bookings are being taken to 01-04-23,

Roscoe Channing


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