Coronation Street star excited to return to South Island

Rula Lenska. Photo: Getty Images
Rula Lenska. Photo: Getty Images
Coronation Street star Rula Lenksa will land in Christchurch in May for the stage version of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 

ILenksa plays Madge Hardcastle who leaves a dreary life in England to find a rich husband at a hotel in India.  

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will be on stage in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington during April and May. 

Lenksa - best known to many as Claudia Colby on Coronation Street -  said she fell in love with NZ 40 years ago and is excited to return.

"I was last in New Zealand in 1984, doing a play called Same Time Next Year with my then-husband Dennis Waterman," she told the Women's Weekly recently.

"We travelled all over the North and South Island, and had the most magical time. I’m so excited about coming back."

Lenksa and Waterman, who later divorced, went on the tourist trail when they weren’t performing, including whale watching in Kaikōura.

“I absolutely loved the whale watching and hope I can do that again,” she enthuses. “And I’d love to go back to Rotorua. We went to Tarawera, which I found fascinating. You have the most stunningly beautiful country.”

Lenksa is looking for some new experiences while she’s here.

"I’m up for anything – any kind of adventure, I’m your girl," " she told the Women's Weekly.

"I’ve always had a wanderlust and I love travelling.

"The more adventurous, the better. I recently had two weeks on safari in Zambia.

"I’ve been to the Galápagos Islands, Tibet, China, Nepal, Africa, India… But whale watching off the Kaikōura coast is up there as one of the most exciting things I’ve done.”

Lenska joined the cast of Coronation Street as new character Claudia Colby, an old friend of Audrey Roberts, in 2009. In May 2011, Lenska left the role to join the Calendar Girls tour in August. In 2016, she appeared in a Christmas special episode of the comedy Inside No 9. She reprised her role in Coronation Street in July 2018, before leaving the show again in April 2020. Lenska returned as Claudia for Norris Cole's funeral in September 2021, and returned again in August 2022.

A six-month tour of the show last year in the United Kingdom had audiences up on their feet, Lenska said.

Based on The Sunday Times bestseller by Deborah Moggach and adapted for film, the show is big on joy, she says. It follows a group of people in the autumn of their lives who decide there’s nothing tying them back home in the UK anymore, so they up sticks and move to Bangalore in southern India.

Lenska plays Madge, who she describes as “very definitely a cougar”.

“She is quite open about the fact that she is coming over to find herself a rich maharajah so she can end her days in the style that she’d like to be accustomed to," she told The Press.

“It’s all to do with daring and adventure, relationships and friendships and older people having a wonderful time.

“I love the idea of a group of people of a certain age deciding to uproot and take on a huge challenge starting life in another place with a different culture.

“They are looking to have one last fling. To have an amazing adventure and to see whether it could possibly be a place you want to end your latter days in still wanting to discover and experience and maybe find love, or if not love something close to that.”

  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will be on stage at the James Hay Theatre in Christchurch from May 15.