Review of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole at Menier Chocolate Factory
There are plenty of shows about how tough growing up can be. Matilda, Curious Incident, even Mosquitoes currently running at the National. But it would be difficult to find one as brilliantly British and as rip-roaring as The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole.
The show is based on Sue Townsend's 1982 book (which later became a TV series) about Adrian, a 13-and-three-quarter year-old boy living in Leicester. Thatcher's in Number Ten and Reagan's in the White House, but politics is the last thing on the mind of a boy that age, isn't it?
Not Adrian. He's an intellectual (though naïve) kid who reads Wuthering Heights for fun and writes edgy poetry that doesn't rhyme. You can imagine his delight when Pandora, an equally smart-arse, pony-riding, private school girl ("Toff") rocks up to class, only for his wonder to be matched by his best mate (and love rival) Nigel.
Not only that, but he's got divorcing parents to deal with, the school bully Barry to stand up to, and a fine collection of spots on his chin to be popped.
Adrian takes us through a year in the life, from meeting his love (who he's going to "run off and save the NHS and dress the homeless in BHS" with) to his mother running off with the next door neighbour.
If there is one reason to see this show, it is the wonderful score by Pippa Cleary, and her and Jake Brunger's (also book) very funny lyrics. From flamenco to rock to disco, these songs are as infectious as it gets. From the defiant "Take a Stand" to the laugh-out-loud final "Nativity" number, there's hardly a weak tune of the bunch.
Luke Sheppard's direction doesn't miss a beat, he grabs a laugh wherever he can, and drives the story along. Brunger and Cleary's jokes seem to be written for the adults for the most part.
Mole is a great role to play, and Benjamin Lewis, a very competent singer, does it very well. There's also some great comic turns by John Hopkins and Lara Denning, as all the cast who share many of the roles, nail them.
This is a fresh, feel-good musical that will leave you with a smile on your face.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Tickets are available now.