Sauce With Everything: Benidorm Live Review

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If you thought the TV show had lost steam after ten long years on our screens, wait until you see Benidorm Live. It’s not so much a musical comedy as a double-entendre deluge.

The show takes off as new arrivals Ben (Bradley Clarkson) and Sophie (Tricia Adele-Turner) attempt to check in to the famed 3-star Solana hotel. Their good looks and failure to know an innuendo when it slaps them on the arse instantly marks them out as suspicious to the staff, who fear that they are the dreaded hotel inspectors. The truth is even less interesting: their original, more Instagram-worthy vacation spot overbooked. So, that’s the plot out of the way, now we can concentrate on the real meat in the sausage, as I imagine writer Derren Litten said to himself after spending precisely five minutes at his writing desk.

It is hard to overstate how hard and fast the innuendos come (sorry). But perhaps they have to because Litten’s quantity over quality approach means that not only do many gags not land, they overshoot the runway and disappear without a trace. Nonetheless, even the stiffest upper lips crumble under the sheer volume of puns. Yes, I laughed. Unfortunately, the audience weren’t the only ones tittering. The cast were already struggling to keep it together when a wardrobe malfunction left ‘Gay Derek’ (Damian Williams) haplessly trying, and failing, to do up his trousers after a poorly-received serenade. But what would be unforgivable in some plays is all part of the fun here.

The first half is a whirlwind, expertly transporting a soggy Leeds night to the Costa del Sol. However, the second half loses momentum as Litten remembers to shovel in the plot, and recalls that he sold this as a musical. The energy dips as the show caters for its most ardent fans with a romance for unlucky-in-love Sam (Shelley Longworth) and punishes us with a few too many musical numbers.

Senile swinger Jacqueline (Janine Duvitski) and hairdresser extraordinaire Kenneth (Tony Maudsley) are the smut-mouthed stars of the show, dragging the rest of the cast to the finish line. Sherrie Hewson as Joyce, in particular, seems to have lost the will to live as she half-heartedly fumbles for her lines. But, as the play draws to a close with a triumphant rendition of ‘Viva España’ all is forgotten – except, perhaps, Jacqueline’s urgent desire for a ‘sausage in cider’.

It does seem odd that in this Brits abroad world there’s no room in the overhead locker or budgie smuggler for even a mention of Brexit. But I guess what the show tells us is that, to paraphrase Rupert Brooks, ‘There is some corner of the Costa del Sol/ That is forever England’. It’s just a pity that the show couldn’t take back a bit more control over its plot and cast.

Phoebe Thompson

Image Courtesy of Leeds Grand Theatre