THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE – aged 13 and three quarters.
Music by Pippa Cleary, book by Jake Brunger, lyrics by Pippa Cleary & Jake Brunger.
Menier Chocolate Factory, 51 Southwark Street, London SE1 1RU to 9 September 2017.
Tues-Sat 8pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7378 1713.
Review: William Russell 26 July.
The Mole truth and nothing but – the diarist from Leicester
Before Harry Potter there was Adrian Mole as the symbol for a generation, and this entertaining musical based on the first of Sue Townsend’s books introducing him – Adrian Mole age 13 and a half – does her work some justice, although the demands of forming a book for the show creates problems. The books were diaries, you were listening to what the spotty lad from Leicester was saying about the adult world around him, dreaming his dreams, discussing society, his letters to the BBC, his poetry and his burning longing for the unattainable Pandora.
But to create a show you have to dramatise, have people play out what he was talking about and while Adrian acts as intermittently as compere it does mean that only some of what makes Townsend’s Mole diaries so special is there.
At the press night Adrian and Pandora were played by Benjamin Lewis and Asha Banks, who were very good indeed. Lewis has just the right nerd qualities required, a decent singing voice and a nice mobile face, while Banks rose to the challenges of Look at that Girl, the first big number, brilliantly, belting it out with total assurance. It is all perhaps a little tuppence coloured – Townsend was a wickedly accurate social commentator and life in 1980s Leicester was a lot less jolly than this – and there is some coarsening of characters. Doreen who moves in with Dad when Mum goes off with Mr Lucas, the bounder next door, is a case in point. Nor is there any sign of any of the brown people who moved in.
There is lots of singing but no Singhs.
The show, which started at the Curve in Leicester directed by Luke Sheppard, still in charge, has been recast and presumably worked on in the light of experience. The score and lyrics, while not memorable, do all that is required, and the adult actors playing multiple roles are seasoned professionals who could do what they in their sleep and do it very well.
One does wonder what the other Adrians and Pandoras will be like as a lot depends on them. At Leicester they found young actors well able to meet the demands of the roles so there is no reason why this should not still be the case.
Kelly Price and Dean Chisnall shine as the unhappily married Mole parents, John Hawkins is a suitably dastardly macho man next door on the prowl, Lara Denning does a lovely contrasting turn as Adrian’s soppy schoolteacher and the slut who moves in with dad, the great Gay Soper is the grandmother from hell and Barry James conjures up to perfection Mr Baxter, the grumpy left wing senior citizen befriended by Adrian as one of his social good deeds. All in all these secrets are worth finding out.
Pauline Mole: Kelly Price.
George Mole: Dean Chisnall.
Mr Lucas/Mr Scruton: John Hopkins.
Doreen Slater/Miss Elf: Lara Denning.
Grandma Mole: Gay Soper.
Bert Baxter: Barry James.
Adrian Mole: Benjamin Lewis/Callum McDonald/Connor Davies/
Nigel: Amir Wilson/Edward Hooper/Max Robson.
Pandora?Asha Banks/Georgia Pemberton/Lara Wollington.
Director: Luke Sheppard.
Choreography: Rebecca Howell.
Set & Costume Design: Tom Rogers.
Lighting Design: Howard Hudson.
Sound Design: Gregory Clarke.
Musical Direction: Alex Parker.
Dialect Coach: Hugh O’Shea.
Fight Director: Terry King.
Puppet Director & Designer: Rachel Canning.