Adrian Mole the Musical Review
PUBLISHED: 16:38 08 July 2019
A rumbustious broad brush musical of Sue Townsend's pompous pubescent hero fizzes with energy but leaves you wanting more of her quirky original lines
Precious few cultural phenomena have come out of Leicester - and I should know I am from there.
But Sue Townsend's hilarious ability to ventriloquise a pompous pubescent boy created an enduring comic character who has translated from the page to TV and the stage.
Adrian's latest incarnation is in a rumbustious musical which has an infectious energy and liberal doses of silliness.
Even if its broad brush caricatures and blistering pace misses some of the undercurrents of Townsend's writing, which owes a debt to her earlier life as a factory worker and struggling single mum. (there's a lot of Thatcher bashing here)
Fewer of the mostly pastiche songs and a shade more of Townsend's quirky, observant wit and Jake Bruner (book) and Pippa Cleary (music and lyrics) would have nailed it.
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As it is, there's much to enjoy in a romp which revels in the period detail of 1981.
'Germaine sodding Greer' is giving housewives like Pauline ideas about liberation, while the nation idealises the unlikely fantasy pairing of Charles and Di.
Long before Saffy was tutting over Patsy and Eddie's antics, Adrian is withering about his parent's hangovers, while fretting about pimples, porn and the size of his penis.
Over a calendar year, he deals with bullying Barry Kent, has a crush on new posh girl Pandora, befriends a rude Communist pensioner, and is a pawn in his parent's disintegrating marriage, becoming a carer for his boozing dad. It's their on-off relationship that's the emotional engine of a piece, whose most memorable refrain is that 'no-one is the perfect mother.'
Indeed the joy here is that everyone is gloriously flawed. Adrian's clueless pretentions to intellectualism are speared in his terrible poetry, and tub-thumping proto-feminist/millennial Pandora shelves her social conscience to whizz off on her pony. Hats off to the child performers who work every bit as hard as the adults - on our night Rufus Kampa made an endearing Adrian and Rebecca Nardin an insufferably feisty Pandora.
As Mr Lucas, John Hopkins is brilliantly slimy as the wooer of Ellen Richardson's credibly conflicted mum.
By the time you get to the showstopping finale of an avant-garde nativity play complete with stretchy umbilical cord and placenta, you'll be wanting more.