The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - poignant, profound and rather beautiful on the Chichester stage

The Best Exotic Marigold HotelThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Chichester Festival Theatre, until February 4

Apparently the great John Le Mesurier’s final words before slipping away were “It's all been rather lovely.” He might have said exactly the same about this.

Hear the words The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and it’s impossible not think of the film and all the huge warmth of emotion the characters conjured on screen, amid the actual bustle and exoticism of India itself. How could the cast – with their one completely fixed, detailed but rather lowering set – hope to do the same on a cold January night in Chichester?

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Well, that’s the magic of theatre in this excellent production from Lucy Bailey, brought to life by a wonderfully experienced cast all bringing their stage and life lessons to bear as they inhabit a random bunch of Brits who, in their advancing years, up sticks and plump for a new life in India.

The ex-pats quickly discover that their residential hotel, woefully lacking in most of the essentials, has been grossly oversold, its every amenity exaggerated. Ah, but it isn’t long before they discover that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has actually got the essentials that really matter – the space, the time and the spur to find again just who they are and who they want to be in whatever years are left to them.

Hayley Mills is the timid character, frightened of life; Rula Lenska, the wannabee man-eater desperate for one last hurrah; Richenda Carey is the woman of mystery chasing her own past; Paul Nicholas, the husband tragically misplaced within his own marriage; and Andy de la Tour, the snubbed old goat keen to show he’s still got something. And it’s together that they succumb to the charms of India and the even greater charms of its people. It’s remarkable just how much of India the piece captures – and it weaves its spell in the most healing of ways. Along the way, it’s a play – by Deborah Moggach – which says so much about how we treat our elderly, how we approach our own ageing, how we remember the easier days and how we might find a way to contemplate whatever it is – if anything – that comes next. The result is gentle, poignant, profound and rather beautiful.