Tag Archives: Ian Talbot

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical
★★★★★

Ambassadors Theatre

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ - The Musical

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre

Reviewed – 3rd July 2019

★★★★★

 

“joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning”

 

I admit to being unsure if Sue Townsend’s geeky Mole would translate well as a piece of musical theatre, and I’m happy to say that my scepticism was unfounded. The show is joyful, energetic and hilarious, with some moments of real tenderness and yearning that bring a tear to the eye. It is a piece that truly reflects the time in which it was written and is set, the early 80s. There are lots of references that older audience members clearly enjoyed; Pebble Mill at One, Malcolm Muggeridge and, of course, the Royal Wedding. And it matters not at all that the younger ones don’t pick up on those moments; the lives of Adrian and his friends and family have plenty for everyone to relate to and enjoy.

The children’s parts are each played by a rotating cast of four. Adrian was played by Rufus Kampa this evening, and the huge applause and standing ovation he received were richly deserved. His Adrian had all the awkwardness and angst of Townsend’s much loved young teen, coping with his parent’s awful marriage and break up and discovering himself as an intellectual with a passion for the feisty, pretty new girl at school – Pandora. And Rebecca Nardin’s Pandora was pitch perfect; the flame that called to Adrian’s moth, sparkling, feisty and very funny. Her voice has a range and depth that are unusual in such a young performer, and she has a wonderful comedic instinct. Jeremiah Davan Waysome played Adrian’s friend, and rival for Pandora’s attention, Nigel with a lovely cheeky energy and the school bully, Barry, was made suitably odious by Jack Gale.

The adults in the cast also play children, and were clearly having a lot of fun doing so. The poignant moments between Adrian’s parents, Pauline and George, played by Amy Ellen Richardson and Andrew Langtree, were beautifully moving, and Richardson’s song ‘Perfect Mother’ was so full of sadness and regret that it hurt. ‘How Could You?’ a painful and powerful argument between Pauline and Grandma allowed both women to let rip with passion, a serious and intense moment, and a reflection of many such a confrontation from the real world. Rosemary Ashe’s Grandma is, by turns, fun, interfering and helpful to Adrian and his Dad, and she brings verve and a fabulous voice to the role. Ian Talbot gave a good turn as the grumpy communist Bert and Laura Denning clearly relishes hamming it up to just the right degree as Miss Elf and Doreen Slater. The final member of the adult cast is John Hopkins, and he somehow managed to strut, bluster and give a storming performance that was always just on the right side of overacting. His vile Mr Scruton, the headmaster, was a great, bombastic villain, and the sleazy lothario, Mr Lucas from next door, was just deliciously awful.

Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary first wrote the book, music and lyrics in 2012, when they were ‘a pair of naive twenty four year olds.’ They met Sue Townsend and she was so impressed that she sold them the rights for a pound. She was worried that the story may be dated but, as Brunger and Cleary explained to her; ‘Despite the internet and mobile phones and all those terribly modern things, spots were still spots, school was still school, and boys still measured their things.” Director Luke Sheppard has translated their vision into a show that bounces with life and allows the early eighties to exist without trying to alter things for our contemporary sensibilities.

There is some inspired and very funny, choreography from Rebecca Howell and Mark Collins and the musicians do a great job with the score. The lighting design, by Howard Hudson, is unusual and effective and Tom Rogers’ set is an evocative, flexible home for the action. I found myself humming ‘Misunderstood’ on the way to the tube. This show has some good tunes too! The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical is an excellent adaptation vividly brought to life by an outstanding cast

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Pamela Raith

 


The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ – The Musical

Ambassadors Theatre until 12th October

 

Last ten shows covered by this reviewer:
The Thread | ★★½ | Sadler’s Wells Theatre | March 2019
Yamato – Passion | ★★★★★ | Peacock Theatre | March 2019
Hell Yes I’m Tough Enough | ★★½ | Park Theatre | April 2019
Little Miss Sunshine | ★★★★★ | Arcola Theatre | April 2019
Man Of La Mancha | ★★★★ | London Coliseum | April 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | Leicester Square Theatre | April 2019
On Reflection | ★★★★★ | Underbelly Festival Southbank | May 2019
Zara | ★★★★★ | Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park | May 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | Lilian Baylis Studio | June 2019
Napoli, Brooklyn | ★★★★ | Park Theatre | June 2019

 

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The Dame

The Dame
★★★★

Park Theatre

The Dame

The Dame

Park Theatre

Reviewed – 4th January 2019

★★★★

“His sense of wonder as he looks out to sea is enchanting and the songs are full of feeling, nostalgia and sadness”

 

This one man show, performed by Peter Duncan, and written by his daughter Katie, was a big hit at the Edinburgh Fringe last year. And I can really see why. It is an intensely personal piece, based on Duncan’s family history. His parents were music hall performers who ran summer seasons in seaside resorts such as Brighton and Scarborough, and did pantomime in the winters. It was a hard working life, the performers built the sets, made the costumes and often did three shows a day.

Growing up in this world shaped Peter Duncan, the entertainer, and his daughter remembers seeing him in pantomimes and musicals when she was growing up. She wrote this challenging piece for him and they have worked on it together for a couple of years now. The process brought back many memories for them, especially for Peter, and it does the same for many of the audience, to judge from the conversations afterwards and my own experience. The evocation of the British seaside in the summer, of Punch and Judy, sandy sandwiches and the smell of the sea, was beautifully done. I remembered the feel of waves on my feet, the smell of suncream and the delight of watching seaside entertainers in the open air, things I haven’t thought about for a long time.

There is delicious humour and cheekiness in the beginning, when Duncan enters as a Dame in full costume. He has just come off stage into his dressing room, with the sound of applause still buoying him up. His character is called Ronnie, and he lets us into his life and his love for the old traditions and performers such as Dan Leno and Chaplin. He describes the makeup as his war paint, the costumes as his armour, and as he removes them, the layers of his memory peel back. We see him as a young boy, badly treated by his father, longing for his mother, and it’s heartbreaking. His sense of wonder as he looks out to sea is enchanting and the songs are full of feeling, nostalgia and sadness.

This is a show that demands a lot of the performer, journeying from joyful play through loneliness, rage, desperation and acceptance. And Duncan is magnificent. The set (Peter Humphrey), lighting (James Smith), sound (Georgia Duncan) and costumes (Duncan Reeves) work together to build a believable world for Ronnie. The dressing room is the frame on which the memories hang, conjured by lighting changes and sound that support Ronnie’s voyage through his past. It’s all beautifully done, and ably pulled together by director Ian Talbot. An excellent start to the new year.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Robert Workman

 


The Dame

Park Theatre until 26th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
End of the Pier | ★★★★ | July 2018
The Rise & Fall of Little Voice | ★★★★ | August 2018
Distance | ★★★★ | September 2018
The Other Place | ★★★ | September 2018
And Before I Forget I Love You, I Love You | ★★★★ | October 2018
Dangerous Giant Animals | ★★★ | October 2018
Honour | ★★★ | October 2018
A Pupil | ★★★★ | November 2018
Dialektikon | ★★★½ | December 2018
Peter Pan | ★★★★ | December 2018

 

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