Tuesday 10 March 2015

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical

Curve, Leicester

6th March, 2015. Please note that this performance was a Public Dress Rehearsal.

I must admit I was dubious when it was first announced last year that a new musical based on Sue Townsend’s much loved novel was to be produced at Leicester’s Curve theatre. The structure of the novel seemed as if it would be less than easy to translate to the stage and the prospect of the more hormonal (ahem) aspects of the story possibly being diluted for a family audience gave pause for thought. However, I need not have worried, because Adrian Mole, it turns out, makes for a rather sweet and touchingly humorous musical.

Jake Brunger’s book recalls the spirit of the late Townsend’s novel as Adrian and Pandora come to life in all their adolescent glory . The nature of the source material dictates that the show takes an episodic form, charting a year through the diary entries and observances of young Adrian. The story of first love, family upset, and the minutiae of suburban life is heartfelt in its identifiable simplicity, with humour deriving from everyday oddities and empathetic, if caricatured, characters. The memory of the novel pervades the production – something drawn upon in Tom Rogers’ innovative set, Adrian’s scribbled writings ever present in the textbook style houses and proscenium fashioned after torn out diary entries.

Pippa Cleary’s music lends itself well to the British musical cannon with its tuneful melodies that never stray into the brashness of the more showy American compositions, perfect for an intimate show about British idiosyncrasies. Tickling lyrics also make the most of Townsend’s writing – a memorable example being the song ‘My Lost Love’, Adrian’s rhyming of ‘Pandora, I adore ya, I implore ya…’ referencing the novel before progressing into something more complex as various characters fill the stage, pouring their hearts out to different melodies, melding into one. The song makes for a striking moment, as does Adrian’s mum, Pauline (Kirsty Hoiles) having a heart-to-heart with her son about her failing marriage in ‘Perfect Mother’. At the opposite end of the spectrum, act two delivers some fine comedy scenes in Adrian’s hospital nightmare ‘If You’d Lived’ and the hysterical nativity scene, the latter being a true highlight and gaining a rapturous response from the audience.

The show is rounded out by a hard-working cast of six adults and four young actors (of which there are three rotating teams), often doubling in roles. Hoiles is a standout as Pauline, balancing humour with pathos, yet the show ultimately, and inevitably, belongs to Adrian – at this performance played by Sebastian Croft. He leads the show with charismatic skill, portraying both Adrian’s irritating pretentiousness and naïve sweetness equally well. He makes for a likeable lead while being believable as an endearingly flawed, yet optimistic, teenager.

Cleary, Brunger and director Luke Sheppard have created an intimate and appealingly British musical comedy which pays tribute to one of Leicestershire’s most celebrated writers and its premier at Curve feels like the perfect celebration of the midlands county.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical plays at Leicester’s Curve until 4th April 2015

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