Fun in the sun with Benidorm Live

Although it’s the end of the road for long-running television series Benidorm, the show’s Midlands fans can still catch up with all their favourite characters, thanks to a new touring stage version of the hit ITV comedy.  What’s On recently chatted to Adam Gillen - who plays the unusual but loveable Liam Conroy - to find out more about Benidorm Live...

Complete with swingers, cross-dressing and more, would you say Benidorm really embraces the beauty of diversity, Adam?
I reckon so. I think the character of Les/Lesley is a wonderful one. It also shows how someone can be if they’re surrounded by an accepting community that allows him to be himself and express himself both as a man and as his alter-ego. I think it portrays an environment of freedom and freedom of expression, and I think that’s a really positive thing. I imagine Benidorm’s portrayal of all lifestyles with a certain amount of levity, joy and fun can only be a good thing. I think the overall reason for Benidorm’s success, though, is that there’s a certain amount of irreverence, real warmth and heart in its story. Derren Litten genuinely loves his characters.

Your character, Liam, and Kenneth - played by Tony Maudsley - have a close friendship. What can we expect in the stage version?
Liam and Kenneth are who they are. They care for each other very dearly. I think they’re beautiful, well-formed characters who aren’t shallow and have layers. They’re very wholesome and just fun to watch. I’m not sure if there’ll be duets in the Neptune, but certainly there’ll be a continuation of the combative, fun, warring siblings relationship they seem to have - just more nonsense. That’s the thing with all your best friends; you can have the most horrendous rows and fall out terribly, but you know they’re not going to go very far and you’re always going to be there for each other. I think that’s what happens with us.

Liam is pretty ill-fated and unlucky in love. What dating advice would you give him?
I think I’d say that he shouldn’t be afraid to be himself. That’s the beautiful thing about Liam, actually - he doesn’t try to be anyone else but who he is. He’s sometimes unusual and sometimes quite strange, but nobody should apologise for who they are. So if he keeps on that road, he’ll find somebody - eventually.

Some of Liam’s fashion choices in the TV series have been questionable. Has he grown up a bit for the stage version?
I’m not sure yet, as we haven’t had that costume chat, but I hope so. When I first started playing him, I got the impression he was dressed by his mother and also borrowed a few things from her wardrobe, which is quite a fun angle. Then, as he’s grown up, he’s been influenced by Kenneth, and I think Kenneth has picked him out a couple of shirts. I think now he’s older there may be a change, but we’ll see what the costume chat has in store.

What made you want to come back to the character of Liam for a full-on stage show?
The series has come to an end, and I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to that than by doing a sort-of Benidorm roadshow - an extended, bumper episode. To see the freedom that those characters can explore on the stage as well is great. For example, Tony and I, we like the physical, brotherly side of our characters’ relationship, and you can’t always get all of that on camera effectively. So to be on stage and to have a bit more space that allows you to really have a proper jostle is ideal.

How does preparation for comedy on-stage and comedy for screen differ?
The timings and the rhythm of the comedy is the same, but you’re not restricted so much by the technical side of things on stage. On stage, we’re able to have a proper barny, where we can cross over speech when shouting at each other without that being an issue. But I think the core elements are the same.

What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve seen off-set during all your time filming abroad?
God, I’ve seen quite a few things in Benidorm. People really let loose. People just have the best time of their lives. Even though people are insanely happy, it does sometimes look like you imagine Sodom and Gomorrah would! It’s just absolute chaos and pure carnage, but in the most beautifully fun sense. I couldn’t even pick out a specific event because there have been too may.

Not planning a holiday trip to Benidorm anytime soon, then?
Well, I’ve been to Benidorm for four months every year for eight years, but I wouldn’t say no to dipping my toe in again - once I’ve had a little break - because its enormous fun. You don’t have to be going for it party-wise to enjoy the area because there are actually some really lovely things to do there; it’s a really beautiful part of Spain. The neon whites always draw you back for a bit of nonsense in the end, though.

What are your plans for the future?
I’m not sure. We’ve got this until April and then, after that, who knows? There’s hopefully more fun, interesting projects to come.

Benidorm Live visits the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, from Monday 24 to Saturday 29 September, and then runs at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham from Monday 3 to Saturday 29 December.