Raise a glass of sangria and sing ‘Viva Espana’ for the stage version of ITV’s award-winning comedy, as Benidorm Live appears at the Nottingham Theatre Royal this week. The show fairly crackles with energy, glitz and cheeky one-liners, bringing all the much-loved characters to life. The loyal audience seem delighted to see their favourite actors in the flesh.
As the title would indicate, Benidorm Live is set in the hotel ‘Solana’ in that popular Spanish tourist resort. It follows the escapades of the hotel staff and their ever-changing guests, a useful format in which to develop on-going characters and yet refresh the storylines. Derren Litten, the writer of the TV show, has created a pacey script reminiscent of the Carry On films – something very British, slightly smutty, but ultimately harmless and entertaining. The characters are larger than life and he has taken advantage of the theatrical staging to add a certain ‘escapism’ to some scenes, so everything is bigger and brighter.
Each popular character gets their own cheer on entrance. Sherrie Hewson as Joyce Temple-Savage, the Hotel Manager, is slightly ditzy and rather laid-back, but delivers her punch lines with experienced comedy timing. Mateo, the smouldering Spaniard with just the right touch of arrogance, is played by Jake Canuso and impresses with his actual flamenco dancing.
The staff of the ‘Blow and Go’, the in-house beauty salon, are the very entertaining pair Kenneth and Liam. A sort of Laurel and Hardy double act, one small and shy, the other big and bold, they have great rapport and their quick-fire repartee is quite crushing at times. Tony Maudsley wears Kenneth’s garish t-shirts and the tiniest shorts in town with complete conviction. Adam Gillen as Liam has an air of Norman Wisdom about him, so intense and physical is his performance as the hapless, distracted hairdresser.
Janine Duvitski as the oldest swinger in town, Jacqueline, is crass and brash but with a certain innocence, whilst Shelley Longworth as Sam, the Entertainments manager with a heart of gold, makes up the core cast.
To this, the stage version adds a few hotel guests to carry the storyline. Ben and Sophie, a rather snooty couple, are quite aghast at the various goings on in the hotel. Bradley Clarkson as the long-suffering husband is one of the hardest working on stage, demonstrating his over-anxious personality with constant fidgeting and over-concern. Sophie is played this evening by Serena Giacomini, who does a nice line in bitchy put-downs and outraged middle-class. Derek is a haphazard, exaggerated character and Damian Williams’ panto background is clear to see as he whole-heartedly embraces the over the top role, and extracts maximum comedic impact from every scene.
Fans of the TV show, who must make up the majority of the audience, seem very happy that their favourite characters are live on stage and are delivering to their expectations. As someone who has never seen the TV show, it is fun, quick-fire and slick. A resourceful set and some strong ensemble work and choreography keep it moving along. The most striking thing is the incredible energy levels of the cast – this show has been on tour since September but feels as fresh as a daisy in the performance. Also, the rapport between the actors is clearly so real that several ad-libs and embellishments became some of the funniest moments in the show. For a bit of fun in the sun, head to Benidorm Live and soak up the warmth radiating from the stage.
Benidorm Live runs at Nottingham Theatre Royal 25-30 March.
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