The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 – The Musical

Reviewer's rating

This musical adaptation of the late Sue Townsend’s novel immerses you in the urban East Midlands of the early Thatcherite era, as seen through the eyes of Adrian Mole (on this night played by Aaron Gelkoff). He is an adolescent navigating parental separation and the challenges of his own pubescent romance. Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s lyrics provide the high point of the performance, wittily rhyming, for example, “BO” with “menstrual flow”. The lyrics certainly outshine the nondescript music, which leaves the audience without a melody to go home humming. The subtle social commentary of the original novel is only occasionally evident.

Riya Vyas’ character Pandora (Adrian’s love interest) has the strongest stage presence of any of the children. Meanwhile, Gelkoff was understated at the beginning, at times his voice being drowned out by the music. But he became more comfortable in his role as the musical progressed – his development reflecting that of Adrian Mole himself.

The changes in the authentic 1980s sets are energetically but smoothly executed. Indeed the actors’ energy suffused the whole musical – but it was not always matched by conviction.

John Hopkins, however, is an outstanding exception with his comical and caricatured characters. His baritone seductive neighbour Mr Lucas, and his brutal authoritarian headteacher are the source of most of the audience’s laughter.

Overall, an evening of lightly humorous, nostalgic, but also life-affirming entertainment.