I have a confession to make. I’ve never read any of Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole books. Being born in London crica 1990, the successful phenomenon that captivated 13 year old boys longing to measure their things, passed me by. However, this new family friendly musical written by Jake Brunger and Pippa Clearly allowed me to meet this wondrously awkward character in a joyous evening full of fun, humour and heart.
The story follows Adrian Mole, a 13 ¾ self defined intellectual in his quest of finding his place as he navitages 1980s Leicester. Whether he’s capturing the love of the new girl and feminist, Pandora. Or trying to understand why his neighbour, Mr Lucas is spending so much time with his mother. Adrian perfectly expresses the juxtaposition of absolute confidence and utter confusion found in a teenagers thought process.
Furthermore, the whole plot impressively balances the tightrope of exploring political issues, be it Thatcher’s Britain or looking back at Diana and Charles wedding with hindsight for the adults while portraying adolescent awkwardness with elements of pantomime comedy for everyone.
There’s also time to take on the ‘drug addicts’ at the BBC, the rife impact of alcoholism and working class Britain. With the original material written in the 1980s, it’s incredible how aptly relevant it still feels today.
It’s this sentiment that led Brunger and Clearly to approach Townsend with the idea of a musical. And while the story and comedy was of a high standard, the songs left more to be desired. They adequately pushed the plot along, yet added little to the evening with more than one occasion where the song key did not suit the actors voice.
In spite of this, all performances were marvellous. John Hopkins playing Mr Lucas and Mr Scruton was hysterical. Playing up for the children but impacting the adults also with cheesy actions and over exaggerated speech. More so, the Adrian of the night, Rufus Kampa looked as if he belonged on stage with perfectly timed facial expressions and well delivered speech.
The whole cast deserves a mention as they all played their parts perfectly, adding a real sense of their individual journeys.
Overall, the show is a fun night at the theatre. Regardless of age or culture, Adrian Mole’s story is one that speaks to us all, and although the musical numbers aren’t the greatest, the characters and energy performed on stage means that this production could be around for a while yet.