Adrian Mole the Musical review ★★★★★
'Perhaps when I am famous and my diary is discovered people will understand the torment of being a 13¾ year old intellectual'
So sayeth Adrian Mole, the diarist who is easily as well known as Samuel Pepys, Charles Pooter or Bridget Jones.
In The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, the fictional teenager, created by novelist Sue Townsend, shares the trials and tribulations of growing up during the 1980s in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire. He must contend with new-found intellectualism, a crush on posh Pandora, Barry the school bully, divorcing parents and a pimply chin. The joy of the novel is the unmediated aspiration, despair and banality of Adrian's voice. It has inspired sequels, a TV and radio series, and a 1984 West End play, complete with songs.
More than 30 years since the publication of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, a full-blown musical adaptation of the much-loved novel comes to London's West End after impressing at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2017.
Since opening to tepid reviews at the Leicester Curve Theatre in 2015, Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary's script and songbook has been developed and reworked by director Luke Sheppard. The result is a show that captures the humour and angst of adolescence – by taking one year of Adrian's top secret concerns, and singing them aloud.
The cast of Adrian Mole the Musical at the Menier Chocolate Factory. Photo by Alastair Muir
The stage reminds us of the diary format, with note-paper walls, ink blots and a biro lid framing the 80s paraphernalia and suburban domesticity. But all the characters Adrian describes are alive and kicking. The adult cast switch between parents, teachers, fellow students and amorous next door neighbours. Performances have an exaggerated quality in keeping with the teenage perspective.
But it's the youngsters who steal the show. Adrian is marvelously pompous and endearing, while ambitious Pandora Braithwaite is preoccupied with her pony and political aspirations. While it occasionally jars to have anxieties over 'funny feelings down below' sung out in public, the musical is entertaining enough to get away with it. And crucially the show doesn't lose Adrian's voice.
As an adult it's impossible to watch without a flush of nostalgia. And for today's teens – with all their spot-fading Instagram filters, and social media sharing – this heart-warming tale of growing up will still amuse and enlighten.
|What||Adrian Mole The Musical, Ambassadors Theatre|
|Where||Ambassadors Theatre, West Street, London, WC2H 9ND | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Leicester Square (underground)|
15 Jun 19 – 12 Oct 19, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
|Price||£35 - £50+|
|Website||Click here for more information and tickets|