ITV sitcom Benidorm hits the stage: ‘It was the best job in the world’

The cast of Benidorm Live in action. Picture by Paul Coltas
The cast of Benidorm Live in action. Picture by Paul Coltas

Benidorm was one of those shows that captured the public’s imagination.  For 10 series and 11 years it was a pillar of ITV’s winter scheduling – a perfect slice of sunny escapism – a sitcom set in the all-inclusive Solana resort.

During its run, it scooped six National Television Awards and two TV Choice Awards and received a TV Bafta nomination for best situation comedy.

So many of those involved were left shocked when ITV decided they wouldn’t be bringing it back.

But, entirely coincidentally, wheels were already in motion to put on a live stage version of the show, reuniting many of the TV show’s key figures. Starting in September in Newcastle and hitting 24 venues by its end in April, it stars Jake Canuso (Mateo), Janine Duvitski (Jacqueline), Adam Gillen (Liam), Sherrie Hewson (Joyce Temple-Savage), Shelley Longworth (Sam), and Tony Maudsley (Kenneth).

The Guide caught up with Tony, who plays gay hairdresser and owner of the Blow’n’Go salon, Kenneth Du Beke, as the tour began in the north east – and he was in a good mood.

‘The reviews have just come out today – five star reviews, the audience are on their feet screaming for more.

‘For us it couldn’t be more lovely, we’re feeling all this warmth coming from the audience at the stage. Obviously being on telly you didn’t feel that. It’s that affirmation that they love us and love the characters, it couldn’t be nicer.’

But as Tony admits: ‘There’s a tinge of sadness as I don’t think the fans want it to end. We don’t want it to end, but the live show has given us a chance to say goodbye to those loyal fans who’ve been following the show for the last 10 years.’

The stage story continues on from the end of the last TV episode, but has been put together as a standalone show so fans and newcomers alike will have something to enjoy.

‘You don’t need to know Benidorm. We’ve already had quite a few people come to us and tell us how much they enjoyed it, but never watched it on telly, so now they’re going to go back and watch all 10 series on Netflix, which is lovely.

Tony Maudsley as Kenneth and Adam Gillen as Liam in Benidorm Live. Picture by Paul Coltas.

Tony Maudsley as Kenneth and Adam Gillen as Liam in Benidorm Live. Picture by Paul Coltas.

‘The show stands alone – you can come along having never seen it before and still have a great night out.’

And for those still desperate for more, Tony reveals that the door has been left open.

‘It doesn’t really wrap it up. The script was written before we knew the show was being cancelled, so it doesn’t end with us saying goodbye, it kind of ends like a normal episode of the TV show, which in a way leaves it open to doing more.

‘The live show had been in the pipeline for a few years, it’s something Derren [Litten, the show’s creator and writer] had always wanted to do. He’d had this ambition to put Benidorm on stage, he thought it would be so lovely to reach the public live and see their reaction.

‘So we always knew we were going to be on hiatus from the TV show for the year it took to do this, but then we didn’t know that was going to be the end. Hence why the tour finishes in April because we thought we might have to go back and film the next series.’

For the actors though, there plenty of reminders of filming on set.

‘The show’s designers went over to Benidorm, and they took quite a few pieces from the original set. Like when you walk on to the stage set, and there’s the ceramic donkey that lives on the counter, and the sign from Blow’n’Go, and the Neptunes sign.

‘It’s weirdly familiar to see all this stuff in Newcastle where we were now.’

Tony joined the show at the start of 2011 and soon became one of the stars, staying until the final episode.

‘I never thought I would be there that long. I obviously wasn’t there from the start, but when I joined I thought this might be nice for a couple of years.

‘Before I’d done this I’d done lots of serious drama, quite heavy, tragic stuff, so I hadn’t done a lot of comedy - it was a bit of light relief, and I got to stay in Spain for three-four months a year.

‘Eight years later and I was still there! I couldn’t even contemplate giving it up because I was having too much fun.

‘My agent said to me, had you thought about moving on? And I said absolutely not, I’m having too much fun. I loved it too much, it was the best job in the world, it really was.’

Before Benidorm, Tony played Grawp, the giant half-brother of Hagrid in Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix, a role which still brings him attention, even though he was only the voice actor.

‘It wasn’t a big part and it was only in the one film, but I get as much fanmail from that as I do from Benidorm – and it’s international, it’s from Japan, China, Mexico –  it’s from all over the place. It’s really nice, and very flattering. I got that because the director, David Yates saw me in the movie of Vanity Fair with Reece Witherspoon. He said he wanted me because the heart and soul you showed in Vanity Fair is exactly the heart and soul I want this character to have.

‘Thank you very much – it was one of the best paid jobs I’ve ever had – it’s the gift that keeps on giving!’

And although he’s committed to Benidorm until at least next April. He will soon be back on our TV screens.

‘I’ve just finished filming quite a posh drama for the BBC, a Stephen Poliakoff drama called Summer of Rockets, it’s a period piece set in the 1950s around the Cold War. I was doing that before I started getting my hot pants back on.

‘It’s nice though, that my last TV work now won’t be Benidorm, so that’s me starting to move on.’

Benidorm Live is at Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from November 5-10. Tickets £19.50 to £44.50. Go to mayflower.org.uk.