Review: Sue Townsend’s The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ The Musical, Curve

Reviewed by Ian Foster Aged 35 ¾ 

“I’m a Mole and not a mouse”

Pre-show
7pm
Just seen the director Luke Sheppard, urgh he’s way too much younger than me.


7.10pm

Just seen the writers Pippa Cleary and Jake Brunger, they’re practically children too. Apparently they all met at uni – they may be winning now but I reckon I did more pub crawls than them though.


7.18pm

I LOVE that the programme is attached to the book itself so for just £5, you get both. You get the feeling Sue Townsend would definitely have approved. (And she did approve of the show, being an active part of the creative process until the sad news of her death last year.) 


7.27pm

There’s four kids sharing the role of Adrian, and three for the other three major kids’ roles. Tonight we’ve got
Adrian – Joel Fossard-Jones 
Barry – Harrison Slater 
Nigel – Samuel Small 
Pandora – Imogen Gurney 
I bet they’re ridiculously talented. I hate young people. Why didn’t my parents put me on the stage as a child, I could have been Wigan’s answer to Bonnie Langford.
Showtime – First half
7.33pm
Aw man, there’s a puppet dog. Why puppets, why? Don’t they know I don’t like ’em and am only pretending to be halfway ok with them now…


7.45pm

Those schoolkids! Rofl as the kids might say. 


7.47pm

I really do love Rosie Ashe.


7.58pm

Unsurprisingly, the young actors really are very good. Gurney’s sauntering self-entitlement as Pandora is cracking and Samuel Small as Nigel will definitely be one to look out for.


8.04pm

Tim Rogers’ fold-out set design works really well, I bet he was born in the 90s or something, urgh. 


8.20pm

Just remembered, Kirsty Hoiles (Adrian’s mum) sang a seriously lovely song by Elliot Davis called Still, I should put it on a playlist when I get in. She’s good here too. 
Interval

8.40pm

Aw, I’m rather enjoying this. Whether deliberate or not, the echoes of other musicals play really nicely – I got affectionate hints of Billy Elliot’s ‘The Letter’, Matilda’s ‘Loud’ and Les Mis’ barricades but the old-school Hollywood charm, via lacrosse, of ‘Look At That Girl’ was probably the best bit thus far. 


8.48pm

I want an ice-cream but I’m too cheap to get one. I never get one these days. Where’s your mum when you need her?
8.56pm
Spot-check on the audience around me, they’re all liking the show. They’re also loving the ice-cream, I knew I should have splashed out, grr.

Second half
 

9,03pm

Am loving Amy Booth-Steel’s work, as always and especially with this vivacious multi-roling, but I’d love to see her take a dramatically different choice of role next. I’m excited to see her show her versatility.


9.12pm

The lighting by Howard Hudson is particularly good, taking us in and out of the moments in Adrian’s mind – these diary-writing moments are possibly too few and far between though, Adrian’s voice really is one of the most iconic bits about the character and it’s not always front and centre in the show here. 
But without making it a one-boy-show, how to fix it? 
Good question, we’ll come back to this later. 
No we won’t, it’s too hard.


9.46pm

Can’t help but feel the second half isn’t quite living up to the first. The episodic nature of the show, borrowing from the episodic nature of the book natch, seems to have lost a little of the energy that propelled us to the interval. I hope they’ve got something up their sleeve.


9.50pm

They do, the nativity scene. I would happily pay just to see this sequence again. 


10.00pm

Well there you have it, a show with lots of lovely moments in it and a lot of potential. Fossard-Jones makes a great bespectacled leading man but too often it feels like he’s a bystander in what is meant to be his story. But there’s something apt about seeing a show so connected to Leicester here at the Curve, with its admirable record of nurturing new musical theatre writing, and I’m glad to have been a part of it. Even if so any talented young people were involved. 😉
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes (with interval)
Booking until 4th April

Looking ahead to 2015

I realise I’m just adding (belatedly) to the plethora of 2015 features already published but so many of them trod the boringly familiar ground of forthcoming West End shows (and in the Evening Standard’s case, managed to recommend booking for three shows already sold out from their list of six). So I’ve cast my net a little wider and chosen a few random categories for just some of the shows I’m recommending and looking forward to in 2015.

Continue reading “Looking ahead to 2015”

DVD Review: Billy Elliot Live

“When the stars look down and know our history”

And what history there is to behold – a run in the West End which has stretched for nearly a decade now, a company that ranges from ages 6 to 84 (surely a record!), a live broadcast to cinemas worldwide which was the first event cinema release to top the UK box office and which contained a finale that brought together 25 young men who have all played the role of Billy. That recording of Billy Elliot the Musical has now been released on DVD so that the theatrical experience can now be recreated in the comfort of your own home and allows to see the detail that you may have missed from your seat in the Victoria Palace Theatre.

That’s the crucial bit really. For all those that worry that filmed recordings are going to replace live theatre, there does seem to be a missing of this salient point that not everyone sees the show from prime seats in the centre stalls. The magic of the theatrical experience can and is tempered by uncomfortable seats and unfortunate viewing lines – so a DVD offering close-ups and other unique shots offers a much-welcomed addition to that experience – and as reasonable a deal as £105 is for a family ticket (the starting price I should add), £15 or so enables a necessary widening of access to a show, which captivate a new audience so much they decide to book tickets – this isn’t a zero-sum game. Continue reading “DVD Review: Billy Elliot Live”

Review: The Sound of Music, Open Air Theatre

“But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past there must have been a moment of truth”

Despite never having seen it on the stage before, I hadn’t originally intended to go and see the Open Air Theatre’s production of The Sound of Music. But whilst on holiday, we watched the film on TV en famille whereupon I was reminded of its charms and hearing the good reviews of this production, duly set about booking tickets for an evening when I hoped the sun would shine. And I clearly had some good theatrical karma as a glorious summer’s evening set up what a simply delightful evening of old school musical entertainment.

It may not be the most adventurous of programming choices and Rachel Kavanaugh’s production plays a very straight bat but in many ways, this is why it is so successful. Its straightforward simplicity allows for a direct emotional hit, one which plays off the indubitable familiarity of so much of the material but also the opportunities offered by this open air venue and the freshness of a supremely talented cast. Charlotte Wakefield’s Maria and Michael Xavier’s Captain may initially seem more youthful than one might expect but together they work like a dream, combining with the whole company to create the kind of warmth that would brighten even the soggiest of September evenings (the run has extended by a week due to its success). Continue reading “Review: The Sound of Music, Open Air Theatre”