If you are looking for a deep and meaningful show to indulge in PC angst and misery Benidorm Live! is not for you. Rather, this screen-to-stage is for those of us ready to dive straight into the Solano Pool for an evening of guilty pleasure laughs, mayhem and more than a splash of double entendre sexual humour.
And guess what? we are not alone. The standing ovation given on the opening night at Cardiff’s New Theatre demonstrated that writer Derren Litten’s decision to bring a host of colourful (and blue being the main colour) characters from a 10 year running TV show to the stage is a huge success with the shows wildly popular.
It is full of sending up foreigners particularly “greasy” Spanish lotharios, fat camp queens, ageing glamour pusses, old swingers, hen-pecked husbands and bitch wives and the Brits abroad. Yes, enough to cause an apoplexy fit of (and probably faux) rage from the #anycausewilldo keyboard warriors (we all know them and they mean well). Of course, these larger than life personalities are all caricatures but are quite possibly truer to “real people” than the plastic constructs of much dreary agit prop theatre.
The cast of Benidorm Live! including TV regulars Shelley Longworth, Janine Duvitski and Tony Maudsley
So accepting this is an evening of fun and frivolity in the Carry On, adult panto tradition and based on a TV show, no wonder everyone joined in the cheers when the small-screen stars made their first appearances: Joyce Temple-Savage (played by Sherrie Hewson); Sam (Shelley Longworth); Mateo (Jake Canuso); Jacqueline (Janine Duvitski); Kenneth (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama trained Tony Maudsley) and Liam (Adam Gillen). This hard-core group was complemented by additional characters (some very similar to those in earlier series of Benidorm), the Nelson Lounge singer Asa Williams, along with players swapping between being hotel staff and holiday makers etc. We even meet Gay Derek played by Damian Williams.
The plot really doesn’t matter (it is the well-tested extended hotel inspector farce) as it is the vehicle for the crazy characters’ capers, a slew of double entendre jokes that even had me wincing at times from sausages in cider and splashing out on knickers.
The characters come to life on stage and liberated from TV sensibilities are even rougher and at times, well much of the time, even more vulgar versions of themselves.
The set is simple and effective for switching from the hotel reception, the pool area, Matteo’s bar and the Neptune Lounge and the infamous Blow and go salon. Short song and dance numbers join the scenes together where necessary and there were a few surprises such as Shelley Longworth, as Sam, delighting with a fine singing voice and Jake Canuso showing us his stage show credentials with a sizzling flamenco.
All good not-so-clean fun and one for the grown ups to indulge in some real world wickedness.
It is great that the New Theatre team haven’t succumbed to the monotonous mantra of cultural appropriation, yellow face blah blah and in the very varied season programme find room for something comedic that people actually want and enjoy.
New Theatre until February 23 and the tour continues including Venue Cymru in April 8 to 13.
Images Paul Coltas.