Review - The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical - Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 ¾ The Musical

Based on the series of Adrian Mole books written by Sue Townsend, set in Leicester in the early 1980’s this musical tells the story of teenager Adrian and his coming to terms with life as he approaches young adulthood and everything that goes with it, especially his struggles with acne, his changing body and girls, but not necessarily in that order.

Adrian considers himself an intellectual and budding poet and focusses on his worries and regrets. His world is turned upside down by two life changing events, his parents decision to separate following his mother’s affair with the rather sleazy neighbour Mr Lucas, and the arrival of Pandora, the new posh girl in his class who has transferred from the local private school and whom he must compete against with his best friend Nigel for her affection whilst also having to deal with the class bully Barry demanding his 20p lunch money. The story is told in diary form for obvious reasons and works well in establishing a timeline for the production.

For those of us who enjoyed reading the books or indeed remember watching the TV series you will equally love this show. Whilst some of the historical events mentioned, as well as some of the humour, may be lost on the younger audience, it doesn’t detract from their enjoyment.  I took my 12-year-old daughter who thoroughly enjoyed it as did I. It delivers a certain amount of nostalgia to the adults. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments too which are enjoyed by the entire audience regardless of age as well as some very touching scenes too.

The wonderful songs by Jake Brunger & Pippa Cleary are well written, funny and very catchy. There are also a couple of emotional ballads to keep the show well balanced.

The cast not only perform but double up as the orchestra which is no mean feat.  Even the musical director Tom Self takes on the role of angry pensioner Bert.

James Hameed is excellent as Adrian and pulls off portraying a 13-year-old boy very well.  Adrian’s dad is played by Steve Simmonds and whilst considered a male chauvinist by todays standards, you can’t help but feel sorry for him at times, likewise his long-suffering wife Pauline played by the equally talented Sioned Saunders. Sally Cheng is also very good as posh girl Pandora; indeed, the whole cast are in fact very believable and work hard to engage with the audience under the direction of Douglas Rintoul to transport us into the moment with them and the unfolding story. Whilst I don’t want to single out anyone, I will mention Dominic Gee-Burch whose comic timing and delivery is not dissimilar to that of John Cleese and has the audience roaring with laughter.

The choreography is well constructed by Sundeep Saini, and the set design also works well.

The show is wonderfully charming and filled with nostalgia.

This production was reviewed on Saturday 30th April 2022 at the Queens Theatre Hornchurch where it runs until 21st May 2022 – Tickets available here

A fun evening out for the whole family!

**** stars

Jon Harris

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Photo credit: Mark Sepple