Words: Stephen M Hornby
The final guests may have checked out of the Solana Hotel on television, but reception is open once again on stages all across the UK.
Six of the stars from the last series of Benidorm reprise their roles for a last hurrah, a final all-inclusive blow-out. But, like the food and drink at the Solana, some of the bounty is a bit lacking in quality.
Benidorm has been a great success on television. Six National Television Awards and ten series are a triumph.
It survived changes of central characters, the death of cast members and the move away from holidays abroad in the age of austerity.
But this transfer to the stage has perhaps been its greatest challenge and one that it only partly meets.
Derren Litten, the writer, acknowledges how much he struggled with writing for the stage. It does show, especially in a thin second half held together mostly with karaoke numbers and cabaret turns from the cast.
It is, however, wonderful to see the main characters back again. Jake Canuso as Mateo is a lascivious lizard in waiter’s clothing always ready to offer some rude and distant Spanish service.
Here he gets the chance to show off an impressive range of dancing skills and a pair of Speedos that should have their own spotlight.
Tony Maudsley displays comic genius as Kenneth, the chief stylist at the hotel salon, Blow and Go.
He takes what could be easily be a mean-spirited stereotype and infuses him with a wonderful blend of sass, fight and well-timed innuendo.
He is clearly an audience favourite. Adam Gillen, who plays Kenneth’s salon junior, just misjudges his performance, playing as if he in a panto, mugging and gooning to the audience, whilst the rest of cast raise one eyebrow at most.
And, of course, there is daytime television legend Sherrie Hewson as the Solana’s General Manager.
Hewson makes the transition to a live audience well and there is a priceless gag in her first appearance. But she gets stuck with chunks on the phone to absent characters which it is hard to see how anyone could make much of.
Most absent from the stage version of the show is pathos. The television Benidorm would gently hint at the hidden sadness in some of the character’s lives and then, very occasionally, show it to devastating effect.
These layers, so vital in bonding the audience to the characters, have been stripped away in favour of a dancing troupe and another sing-a-long from Asa Elliott.
The director, Ed Curtis, keep up the action and the pace, but a few pauses to strike different emotional notes along the way would’ve been welcome.
Benidorm Live has lots to please fans of the show. But, it is more like spending a night out with the cast in the hotel’s all-inclusive Neptune bar, than it is like an episode of the show.
It is frothy and fun, cheap and a bit tacky. That might be a great reflection of the Spanish resort it’s parodying, but this stage version, whilst still recognisable and funny, has lost some of it’s heart.
Runs until December 1, then continues touring nationally April 2019