Venue: Theatre Royal Plymouth
Writer: Derren Litten
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Kelyn Luther
Having been axed after 10 years, one of ITV’s most successful sitcoms of recent years comes to the stage for a national tour – a bit of Spanish sun in the biting October weather.
The secret of Benidorm’s success is that the comedy is a throwback to the seventies and eighties and the seaside postcard humour that we pretend to turn our noses up at, but secretly snigger at. The broad demographic of the audience shows that it’s not just package-holiday-goers who enjoy the show.
Though it’s advertised as being a new story, writer Derren Litten borrows plot elements from Series 1 for Benidorm Live. A middle-class couple (Bradley Clarkson and Tricia Adele-Turner) had planned a nice holiday to Altea, but as there are no rooms left, they’re booked into the sister hotel. The Solana is Benidorm’s premier 4 star (or is it 3 and a half?) all-inclusive resort (an excellent reproduction by set designer Mark Walters). While the husband tries to get into the swing of things, the wife is appalled, if a little flustered by the attention of randy Spanish barman Mateo (Jake Canuso – a veteran as he’s been in every episode of Benidorm). If comedy Spaniards aren’t enough of a nod to Fawlty Towers, we have another, as there’s a couple of undercover hotel inspectors amongst the guests.
On the night of this review, the vast majority of the audience appears to be fans of the show which does help, as the characters play broadly to type. The two most outrageous characters are hairdresser Kenneth (Tony Maudsley), squeezed into hot pants and a variety of naughty slogan T-shirts, and swinger Jacqueline (Janine Duvitski, second veteran). With the tone of filthiest glee in her voice, Duvitski steals the scene with innuendos that aren’t exactly coy. If you can see the punchline coming and roar with laughter than you will find the show a hoot. There is no highbrow or political humour, just good old-fashioned double entendre of pantomime (turned up a notch or ten).
The advantage of seeing the show on stage is that characters who seem too exaggerated on television work much better on stage, where bigger is better. Adam Gillen as the idiotic but innocent Liam, is hilarious and strangely adorable in his devotion to his father and colleagues. It is the right decision to use the original cast, as their performances are iconic and the familiarity brings warmth to the show. It might have been lightly amusing with a different cast, but not quite the same.
Asa Elliot, the Solana’s resident singer who performs in Benidorm in real life, is a charming crooner and as Solana staff Sam, Shelley Longsworth does an admirable belt of karaoke. Top it off with some short dance routines (Canuso was a dancer before moving into acting) and you have entertainment that does exactly what you would expect from Benidorm Live.
Runs until 27 October 2018 | Image: Contributed