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Theatre Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a theatrical production that explores the complexities of ageing, love, and self-discovery. Set in the vibrant backdrop of Jaipur, India, the play follows a group of British retirees who embark on a journey to a supposedly luxurious retirement hotel, only to find it in a state of disrepair.

It follows pretty well the plot of the 2011 movie with each of the characters grappling with their own personal challenges and desires. There are, of course, cultural differences but what comes across clearly is that it doesn’t matter where you are from, all humans face the same basic issues and needs, particularly as we age. 

The cast was made up of mostly kiwi actors and together with the UK’s Rula Lenska they made up a quirky set of characters. The script with its clever blend of humour and pathos gives each individual a sense of place and strength no matter how big or small the part.

Yet something quite curious occurred on stage for me and it felt almost as though this was, to misuse a sporting cliche, a play of two halves.

In the first act, before intermission, the energy on stage often seemed subdued as though the performers were still trying to figure out their relationships with one another. It was entertaining, but it seemed to drag in moments, and many of the quips didn’t quite land. I was invested in it, but I felt a little restless. 

I wonder if maybe I have misinterpreted an artistic decision to deliberately show confusion and disorientation for the newly arrived elderly in India in a certain way.  After all, there were some very good interactions and sequences, such as those between Shaan Kesha as Sonny, and Sudeepta Vyas as Mrs Kapoor, who created a very convincing dynamic of a mother and son at loggerheads.

Whatever the answer, the second act had a better pace and confidence. The rapport and chemistry between everyone was stronger and the one-liners delivered with palpable bite. The relationships across the board felt genuine.

That confusion of mine aside, the play is engaging and thought provoking, and I could quite easily see it again. 

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL 

23 April – 5 May 2024

Civic Theatre, Auckland 

Tickets and information 

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