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Theatre review: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4

John Nathan gives his verdict on a musical version of Sue Townsend's bestseller

Menier Chocolate Factory

    Ilan Galkoff as Adrian and Georgia Pemberton as Pandora
    Ilan Galkoff as Adrian and Georgia Pemberton as Pandora

    Question: who would be 13 ¾ again? Sue Townsend’s acne-’n’-all account of an adolescent male’s growing pains as he is suspended between the states of man and childhood reminded adults just how grateful they should be to the ageing process.

    And so does Pippa Cleary’s musical version of the novels which absolutely captures the spirit of the phenomenally successful mock diaries.

    Book and co-lyric (with Cleary) writer Jake Brunger sets the musical at the beginning and end of one eventful life in the year of Adrian Mole, in which he discovers the meaning of love and that his mother prefers to live with his divorced neighbour instead of Adrian’s unreconstructed chauvinistic dad. This is the 1980s and Luke Sheppard’s lively production is a useful reminder that the sexual politics in which Adrian’s parents’ generation lived had more in common with the 1890s.

    Adrian’s sexual awakening is timeless however. The subject of his passion is the lovely Pandora (a terrific Georgia Pemberton) who is so perfect she inspires in Mole the unforgettable lyric “Pandora, I-adore-ya.”

    The adult cast, led by Kelly Price and Dean Chisnall, support the younger members of the cast without ever overshadowing them. For this performance I was lucky enough to catch Ilan Galkoff in the role of Adrian. He’s the same age as his alter ego yet he brings a remarkably mature and understated quality to the role of the teenager with literary aspirations. With his aviator-style spectacles he lends Adrian’s neuroses something of a Woody Allen quality. Although for me, the precocious pomposity that Galkoff brings to the role made me think much more of a young Harold Pinter. Oh, and the answer to that question is, surely, no-one.

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