Writer: Derren Litten
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Dan English
There’s plenty of winter sun to be had as the stage adaptation of ITV’s hit comedy Benidorm checks-in at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre as part of its tour.
Leaping from ITV onto a UK and Ireland tour, Benidorm Live remains penned by Derren Litten and boasts several cast members from the TV series as we arrive at the Solana amid a potential takeover and the fear of hotel inspectors in the vicinity.
Litten’s risqué script draws closely from the TV series, and there’s a comfort to the performance which immediately settles and entertains an expectant audience. This production looks and feels like an extended episode, although characters and punchlines are played up more for laughs here than behind the screen.
Jake Canuso returns as Mateo, the desperately flirtatious and cringe-worthy barman. It is a role that Canuso plays with ease, having done so for the last decade, but this production breathes new life into the character, allowing Canuso to show off some slick dancing skills and tap into his dance background. Alongside him is Sherrie Hewson as long-suffering hotel manager Joyce Temple-Savage. Perhaps somewhat underused in this production, Hewson’s character remains at the very edge of desperation as she fights to keep her beloved hotel open. Shelly Longworth also returns as Sam, giving a number of commanding vocal performance in the second half.
There are also triumphant returns to their TV roles for Adam Gillen and Tony Maudsley, who play ‘Blow n’ Go’s’ Liam and Kenneth. The pair appear in the opening moments of the production and it falls to them to warm the eager audience, which they do with aplomb. It is hard not to be swept away by the melodramatic Liam, who Gillen ramps up, almost to maximum, for this stage production, and the extravagant Kenneth, who, through Maudsley’s strong delivery, achieves a lot of laughs.
A standout performance, however, is from the magnificent Janine Duvitski as the outrageous swinger Jacqueline. Duvitski transfers her character to the stage production well, and Litten’s script offers Janine’s role much more innuendo and outrageous humour across the performance, which is delivered with ease. Duvitski steals every scene she’s in in Benidorm Live, with a musical number in Act 2 a must see for all fans for her and the show.
One aspect that sets this production apart from its TV counterpart is the inclusion of songs sung by the cast. Although not strictly a musical, the production does drift into this genre, largely spearheaded by singer Asa Elliott, who also transfers from the TV version. It’s this where the production does not always hit the spot as a few of the numbers feel forced into the piece, although Elliott is impressive in his delivery. That said, the tongue-in-cheek introduction to Canuso’s Mateo seems perfect when combined with a rendition of ‘Living La Vida Loca’.
Mark Walters’ set design is easily manipulated, and it works well to create a sunny, all-inclusive atmosphere capturing some of the well-known locations from the original series. The transitions between the hotel and the poolside work well, but also allow for effective split staging from Ed Curtis’ direction enabling the performance to keep a snappy pace which rarely drifts.
This is a bawdy, silly and fun production that will please old and new fans alike and includes some genuinely hilarious moments. The TV series might be over, but there’s plenty left on the sunny shores of Benidorm.
Runs until 16 February 2019 | Image: