The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾ at Ambassadors Theatre
Being a teenager isn’t easy – especially not for self-professed intellectual 13-year-old Adrian Mole. This coming-of-age musical is based on Sue Townsend’s novel of the same name, and as far as adaptations go, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ does a great job of charming its audience with a stunning production fuelled by loads of humour, great choreography and excellent performers, making it an unforgettable steamroller with lots of energy, passion and fun.
From start to finish, the performance impresses with an exceptionally diverse range of emotionally appealing scenes. When the show wants to be sombre and thoughtful it’s genuinely moving; when it wants to be funny it’s genuinely hilarious – even if a lot of the humour is a bit too grown-up for younger audiences. The direction by Luke Sheppard is rather conservative but inoffensive, and Rebecca Howell’s strong choreography alongside Howard Hudson’s powerful lighting design succeed in bringing the staging to life.
For all its strengths, the spectacle’s capacity is somewhat marred by several flaws. The pacing is particularly difficult in this piece, and it doesn’t always deliver, making the show feel jarred (and noisy!) at times. The latter is a pity, because the few quieter and more dramatic moments represent some genuinely brilliant examples of contemporary musical theatre. Some of the general themes are also extremely old-fashioned, occasionally to the extent of being almost unsuitable for a modern audience – although those are also present in the source material.
However, these script-based issues don’t detract the fact that the production is just plain enjoyable to watch. The music – while not hugely original – is catchy and perfectly in tune with the plot, and the actors are fantastic. Pauline as Adrian’s mother is cast by an endearingly genuine Amy Ellen Richardson and John Hopkins is hilarious as Mr Lucas and Mr Scruton. But the child actors steal the show, above all Rufus Kampa as the titular protagonist, whose brilliant lack of self-awareness and dry sense of humour leaps off the stage – aside from the fact that he can also dance and sing beautifully.
It’s a blessing that Adrian Mole made it to the West End. It may not be a profoundly important piece of contemporary theatre, but that hardly matters to an audience who will be presented with a passion-project where most pieces fall so neatly into place that they are guaranteed a wonderful evening.
Photos: Pamela Raith
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13¾ is at Ambassadors Theatre from 15th June until 12th October 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.