Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, May 23rd 2023

Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, May 23rd 2023

by Martin Brisland.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel delighted the audience at Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre last night.

The message of the story, about the importance of embracing life, love and going on adventures at any age, clearly resonated with the audience who hung onto every word and laughed at every joke. 

This is the story of older characters who, as is said in the play, are in search of “adventure before dementia”.

 The original 2004 book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach was a Sunday Times best seller.

It has led to two films in 2011 and 2015, a reality television series and now a successful stage adaptation. If you’re wondering whether it is worth seeing the play when you already know the films, the answer is definitely yes!

The amazing set designed by Colin Richmond wows audiences as it recreates the courtyard garden and reception area of the Marigold Hotel. This dilapidated former colonial building is a powerful character in itself. The sound effects of cicadas, traffic and crowds make you feel like you are there on a hot Indian day. The superb original music by Kuljit Bhamra perfectly enhances the happy and sad scenes in the play.

The story revolves around a motley crew of elderly Brits. Many have been widowed and are lost in the wilderness of their twilight years, trying to find a new meaning to life. They don’t want to inconvenience their families and feel invisible in the country of their birth.

Marlene Sidaway is a former cleaner Muriel whose friendship develops with the hotel cleaner (Anant Varman). This version of the character is much more empathetic than the role played by Maggie Smith in the movie.

Eileen Battye as Jean, wife of Douglas, was the unbearably smug “seasoned traveller”. She perfectly captured the patronising tone of a certain type of Brit abroad. Paul Nicholas gave a sensitive performance as Douglas who is slowly falling out of love with such an overbearing wife.

Tessa Peake-Jones as Evelyn, starts as a naive widow but blossoms in confidence after she discovers her skill at telesales and growing feelings for Douglas. 

Madge (Belinda Lang) is on the hunt for a rich man after the deaths of her previous husbands.

The grumpy Norman (Graham Seed) is hiding a big secret to protect his pride. Dorothy (Paola Dionisotti), the group suspects to be mad until they learn about her past in India.

Sonny Kapoor (Nishad More) is now running the hotel. His father has died and left his mother, Mrs Kapoor (Rekha John-Cheriyan), dependent on her son. Unfortunately, the close mother-son bond causes problems with Sonny’s love for Sahani (Shila Iqbal), the charming call centre worker who works nearby.

They were all fabulous performances, with particular credit going to Rekha John-Cheriyan, Shila Iqbal and Marlene Sidaway.

Lucy Bailey, director of the show, says: “It’s not only about growing old or becoming lonely, it’s also about how we become invisible, especially women, as we get older, without realising it. It’s a gradual thing that happens, the sensation of becoming a ghost.”

Do yourself a favour and go see this uplifting play.

Tickets for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (performances until 27th May) are on sale at or 02380 711811.

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