Review – Benidorm Live ****

Benidorm Live is a truly unique theatrical experience. To anyone unfamiliar with at least some of the 10 years of TV episodes it must seem baffling. But for fans of the show – and this seemed to include the entire opening night audience at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre, where the tour makes its latest stop – it makes the transition from small screen to big stage with all the key elements intact.

Benidorm was always very broad. It’s a Carry On for the 21st century. And the theatre version has gone even broader – not in terms of the story but in terms of the style and the performances. This is all to the good.

The set itself is a delight. It somehow brings a smile to your face and efficiently captures all the main hotel locations, from the pool bar to reception, swiftly turning from one to the other in some niftily choreographed scene changes.

The plot has our favourite Benidorm hotel, the Solana, being eyed-up for take over by a rival group. They’ve sent in a hotel inspector to report back on how the Solana is run. This leaves the staff in a tizz as they identify the inspectors and try and persuade/bribe them into allowing them to keep their jobs. Needless to say, as in the Fawlty Towers  hotel inspector episode, the identity of the spy in the camp is guessed  incorrectly.

But, like the Carry On films, Benidorm is not driven as much by the plot as by the characters. It’s really a series of episodes where they each get their own moment. This is where Benidorm Live is such a treat. We have six of the main cast played by the original actors. Each of them gets their own entrance and each gets their own ovation from the audience when they do.  It’s like watching an old-style American sitcom when a special guest comes on. They all give full-on versions of their on-screen personas. This is saying something, because subtlety was never a Benidorm trait on screen but they go gloriously over the top, none more so than the brilliant Janine Duvitski (as the swinger Jacqueline). Adam Gillen as Liam runs her a close second, along with fellow Blow and Go-er Tony Maudsley as Kenneth. Jake Canuso as Mateo gets to show off his dance skills in some of the many musical interludes which pepper act one, readying us for act two being set for its entirety in Neptune’s, famous for its Karaoke. Presiding over the chaos (or perhaps more accurately being swept along by it) is Sherrie Hewson’s Joyce Temple-Savage.

It’s all huge fun. The theme music strikes up at the beginning and instantly you realise how you’ve missed having Benidorm in your life. So when the familiar characters appear live in front of you, they’ve already won you over.

Writer Derren Litten has looked after his baby and does himself and us proud in the process. He’s taken care of his characters and his audience. He even teases us as Joyce Temple-Savage makes us promise we’ll all be back at the Solana next year. So is there more Benidorm to come?

Benidorm Live is at The Orchard Theatre, Dartford until Saturday 16 February and then continues on tour.



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