It’s a long way from Jaipur to Peckham but it’s a journey that Only Fools And Horses legend Tessa Peake-Jones is loving.
The actor – who became a household name as Raquel in the classic sitcom – is having a ball crisscrossing the UK with the touring version of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, opening at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen tomorrow (Tuesday April 4).
Not only does she love the reaction of audiences every night, she also believes the story of a group of retired Brits finding a new lease on life in India has a life-affirming message at its heart.
“One of the older characters says: ‘life is for living… Everyone thinks I’m ready to die, but I’m actually ready to live,” said Tessa, who is playing Evelyn, a recently widowed housewife.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at His Majesty’s says ‘life is about now’
“That’s a brilliant philosophy for anyone of any age. And this show is a champion of seeing older actors on a stage, working together and saying life is about now, let’s try something new.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows the retirees as they set out on a new life in what they believe is an opulent retirement home in India – only to find it’s not what they thought. But along the way, the eclectic bunch find their lives changed forever as are the lives of the people who run the hotel.
“It’s quite an adventure, because you get to know all the Indian characters and hear about their lives and you see the white elderly people arriving and having to adjust,” said Tessa,
“By the end they become one big family – a word that is used a lot is joyous. Each character goes through some change or transformation throughout the evening and that’s just lovely to watch.”
Tessa, who is a familiar face on stage and screen, having recently played Mrs Magurire in the popular ITV detective series Grantchester, particularly loves the journey that Evelyn takes during the course of the story.
“She starts as a very quiet, shy and retiring person who’s not used to travelling on her own since she lost her husband. She’s a little bit scared by the whole thing, then you watch her blossom. In India, she finds herself and new side of herself.”
Tessa takes on role played by Dame Judy Dench in the movie version
The movie version of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has been described as one of the century’s most treasured films – with Dame Judi Dench playing Evelyn – but it’s one that Tessa has never seen.
“I haven’t read the book either – but that’s what brings people in, that they have seen the film and loved it. But the stage version stands in its own right, people will have a very enjoyable evening.”
But she is loving every minute of the show – especially the finale which involves a bit of Bollywood-style dancing.
“For a few minutes I can feel like I’m in a musical,” said Tessa. “I’ve always wanted to be in a musical, but I can’t sing, but just for a tiny bit I can feel like I am in one in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”
While on tour, Tessa finds many people still want to chat to her about the legendary Only Fools And Horses. She is delighted that people have fond memories of the show in which she played Raquel, partner to Del Boy, the role that cemented David Jason as a national treasure.
“Because it’s on UK Gold every day it lives on forever,” she joked. “Although we are all now 20 years older than the last one, it still has a very surprising impact on people.
Tessa tells how Only Fools And Horses has changed people’s lives
“People will come up and tell us stories of how Only Fools And Horses changed their lives. When they have lost someone they put it 0n, it’s their go-to programme when they are depressed. It’s had a profound effect on people.
“People never say anything but praise for the show. You do think how privileged we all are to be patted on the back every day by some member of the public when there are people saving lives in hospitals who never get thanked.”
While she and the rest of the Only Fools And Horses cast catch up occasionally, often at conventions, Tessa can categorically rule out a reunion for the popular show.
“Nobody would do it because we don’t have the most amazing genius writer, John Sullivan,” she said of the show’s creator who died in 2011.
“Without him, there isn’t a programme. But I often hope he’s looking down from somewhere and saying: ‘wow, it’s still so popular’.”
However, fans of Grantchester might be a bit more fortunate as Tessa plots her next move.
“We still haven’t confirmation and there are ongoing negotiations, but there might be a possibility of another Grantchester, but we’re still not sure. If not, I will be looking for more telly or theatre work. I’m just so happy to work. What a privilege it is to do a job where we actually get such fun out of it,”
Tessa Peake-Jones is on a mission to entertain audiences at His Majesty’s
Before any of that, though, Tessa’s aim is to entertain audiences at His Majesty’s on what will be her first visit to the Granite City.
“I hope they are going to be cheered up. If we can entertain and audience for two and a half hours and they go out feeling a bit brighter and jollier, then we’ll have done our job.”
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is at His Majesty’s Theatre from Tuesday April 4 to Saturday April 8. For information and tickets visit aberdeenperformingarts.com
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