Review of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend - The Musical
Guest post by Deborah Russell
So I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of musicals (neither is my partner so I neglected to tell him until it all became very obvious on the poster in the foyer), I wasn’t popular. To be honest I was quite prepared to dislike it heartily myself, but seriously how could I? We had an evening filled with 1980s comedy, slapstick, crazy dancing and some really good performances that even had my other half laughing.
References to communism, which was all the rage back then, loaded with casual sexism and class prejudice, watching the Royal Wedding (the Charles and Diana one of course), complete with comments on The Dress. Skinhead bullies, boyhood rivalry, Margaret Thatcher, Germaine Greer, and Adrian Mole singing of his first love “Pandora, I adore ya”. Perfect. And while I did think Pandora’s intro song where she declares herself for women’s equality and ‘trans rights’ was a little out of keeping with the decade itself I didn’t let that spoil the nostalgic feel. I was back there with baggy coats and spiky haircuts.
A fascinating moment when Bert, played by Tom Self (who was also the Musical Director) told Adrian that wives are only good for one thing, ‘you ride ‘em and whip ‘em. I swear there was a short intake of breath within the audience and a pause on stage - how times have changed.
Adrian, played by James Hameed, was the self-obsessed, spotty, whiny teenager some of us can remember from days of yore but his endearing nature and passion for Pandora and plea for a ‘wife that will always make my tea’, saw off his bully and eventually won him his love. Oh sorry, did I give the plot away?
Mrs Mole’s affair with creepy Mr Lucas from next door left Adrian and his dad in the doldrums but brought us one of the best scenes when Doreen, a local lady of low repute, made her play for Mr Mole. An excellent performance by Lauryn Redding, who also played the school teacher Miss Elf, Doreen’s opposite in every way.
As for Mr Lucas, Dominic Gee-Burch played him brilliantly and doubled up his performance as the scary headmaster, Mr Scuton, who disliked children and pretty much everyone else.
Sue Townsend’s first Adrian Mole novel was published in 1982, so the fact that the play was so well received by young and old alike – complete with a standing ovation - shows the power of simple tales of the good overcoming adversity and telling the bad just where to go. The school disco and alternative Nativity play, the music and cultural references were definitely a trip down memory lane for some of us and left the audience smiling.
Playing now until 21st May 2022
Tickets from £20.15, under 26s £8
Queen's Theatre Billet Lane Hornchurch, RM11 1QT