If Adrian Mole was the amusing touchstone for your youth, you will probably find all the same joys in this new Musical adaptation of the Sue Townsend 80s classic.
Adrian’s parents are splitting up, he’s got a crush the size of the spot on his chin, and he’s obsessed with being an intellectual but doesn’t quite know what that means. It’s all there, from the red-sock rebellion to an utterly abysmal school nativity. Aside from adding some solid tunes, this adaptation is picking up the book and throwing it onto the stage. And as someone who resonated with Adrian Mole’s teenage insecurity, it certainly hit that nostalgic spot.
For the godforsaken few of you who clicked on an Adrian Mole review having never read the books, it is about as cut and dry as it gets when it comes to early teenage stories. With varying degrees of success, Adrian attempts to get the girl while stumbling through the difficulties of his parents divorcing.
James Hameed is very charismatic as Adrian Mole and wins the audience onside immediately. He’s got a good voice and has Mole down to a tee. The only issue is his age; he looks closer to a promotion at an accountancy firm than the looming O-levels, an issue not helped by the costuming choices. That and the fact that Adrian Mole would never be nearly as good a dancer.
Sally Cheng is good as the thoroughly stuck up and fairly dislikable Pandora Braithwaite, while parents Lauryn Redding & Steve Simmonds had moments which really stood out. Dominic Gee-Burch deserves a mention for giving a pretty convincing impression of John Cleese as the evil school teacher and multi-roles as Adrian’s mum’s new guy.
The music does what it says on the tin; it is upbeat and carries the story with a contagious rhythm and character. Aside from mics not being on consistently throughout the show, it is a show that doesn’t lose its tempo.
It’s essential a trip down nostalgia lane – the audience was made up of two distinct camps, the plus sixty majority who read Townsend when she published the books, and the early teens experiencing Mole for the first time. I think the latter of those two groups would be somewhat lost; the jokes relying heavily on growing up in the 80s, watching the Diana-Charles royal wedding, and the many other strange pop-culture trends of the era.
That’s it, really; there’s not much else to be said. As a show, it is undeniably conscious that it has a very distinct, ageing audience, and it plays to them from start to finish. It lacks much of a conflict in the story, but it’s very funny and well performed.
Review by Tom Carter
Based on Sue Townsend’s best-selling book, this outrageously funny tale of teenage angst and unrequited
love features one of the most endearing comedy characters of all time.
Life’s pretty hard when you’re a misunderstood and spotty teenager living in a cul-de-sac in 80s Leicester.
Adrian’s life simply can’t get any worse – until new girl Pandora joins a class and captures his heart. But
can Adrian win her love and escape from the school bully and his chaotic family life?
Sally Cheng as Pandora
Dominic Gee-Burch as Mr Lucas/Mr Scruton
James Hameed as Adrian Mole
Lauryn Redding as Doreeen/Miss Elf
Sioned Saunders as Pauline Mole
Tom Self as Bert
Steve Simmonds as George Mole
Claire Storey as Grandma
Luke Thornton as Nigel
Ben Williamson-Jones as Barry
Director Douglas Rintoul
Musical Director Tom Self
Set & Costume Designer Alfie Heywood
Lighting Designer Sherry Coenen
Sound Designer Chris Murray
Choreographer Sundeep Saini
Accent Coach Charmian Hoare
Costume Supervisor Fran Levin
Assistant Director Adam Dear
Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Billet Lane, Hornchurch. RM11 1QT
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – the Musical
Dates: 28 Apr – 21 May 2022