Benidorm Live – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Benidorm Live – Review
Bradford Alhambra, October 2018
by David Schuster
Benidorm Live is like one of those saucy postcards sold in seaside tourist-tat shops; well observed, funny and a bit rude. The Brits abroad premise of the show is epitomised by the first exchange between hapless couple Ben and Sophie, and Joyce Temple-Savage the Head Manager of the Solana hotel. “Why,” asks Ben naively, “do you have someone on Reception who speaks Spanish?.” “Well,” replies Joyce, looking around exaggeratedly, “the last time I checked, this was a hotel in Spain.”
In the first act Derren Litten’s clever script has the same naughty humour as an episode of Are You being Served? So, there’s innuendo aplenty. Janine Duvitski, who plays long-time swinger Jacqueline, manages to say the line “Sausages in cider” several times, without once losing her air of innocence. The funniest moments take place in the salon, firstly where the unsuspecting Mrs Cattleprod is mistakenly given an Alan Carr hairstyle, instead of her desired Deborah Kerr look, by lovely but dim Liam (Adam Gillen). Scene of the night though goes to Damian Williams as Derek, who tries unsuccessfully to woo outrageous hairstylist Kenneth (Tony Maudsley) with a hilarious song.
“Actors enjoying themselves”
Many, many of the long-term cast of the Benidorm television series are present and correct for this stage version; Duvitski, Gillen and Maudsley are joined by Jake Canuso, Sherrie Hewson and Shelly Longworth, to name but three. The audience clap appreciatively as their well-loved characters appear on stage for the first time. I have to say that the actors look like they are enjoying themselves tremendously.
The stage set itself is marvellous. You can tell that the production has been shaped around it, to its benefit. The main focus is the frontage of the Solana building, with the central portion revolving to show interior and exterior views as required. Around this, clever use of perspective gives the impression of balconies, complete with miniature towels draped on the railings, and of other similar hotel buildings lining the seafront. Around this revolves another portion of the stage, allowing settings for reception, the pool side and hair dressing salon to be swung swiftly into view. Mark Walters is to be congratulated for its conception.
The second act has a more musical focus and is based in the Solana’s Neptune Bar. In an inspired move, the players include real-life Benidorm cabaret singer Asa Elliot, as himself. He performs a number of crowd-pleasing songs including ‘Shang-A-Lang’, by the Bay City Rollers and ‘Blue Spanish Eyes’. The main cast too all perform numbers, as though in a karaoke club. Amongst these, Kenneth does an unexpected duet with Mateo (Canuso) and Liam sings a version of ‘Unforgettable’, which truly is! There’s also a priceless monologue by Derek, who reprises the whole show in verse.
In parallel to this, the story of hotel inspectors, possible takeover and closure of the hotel, progresses through brilliantly executed stage sharing moments; the full cast will be singing then, as one of the main actors speaks, the spotlight moves onto them. The rest of the performers, now in shadow, freeze in mid-action, silently like statues. This is no mean feat and works extremely well. A merry maker in the bar even pauses halfway through the act of climbing onto a table.
The story ends happily with a rousing version of ‘Viva Espana’, throughout which the audience were on their feet clapping along. This is a laugh-out-loud show, which you don’t have to be familiar with the TV series to enjoy. Well worth seeing.
images: Paul Coltas