Tag Archives: Luke Sheppard

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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Murder for Two

Murder for Two

Watermill Theatre

Murder for Two

Murder for Two

Watermill Theatre

Reviewed – 4th February 2019



“a high energy antidote to the gloom of both the season and of our current national politics”


Take two actor-musicians and ask them to hold the stage for ninety crazy minutes during which they will play thirteen different characters. Not just acting and singing, but also playing the piano, sometimes individually, sometimes collaboratively and sometimes even competitively. That’s the big ask for the latest show to galvanise the stage at Newbury’s theatrical gem, the Watermill Theatre.

Murder for Two is the work of Joe Kinosian (music) and Kellen Blair (lyrics). Conceived as a mad mash-up of (wait for it) Agatha Christie and the Marx Brothers, it offers a high energy antidote to the gloom of both the season and of our current national politics.

The show’s world premiere was at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre in 2011, when the production was awarded the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Musical in Chicago. It went on to tour extensively throughout the States and was first produced by the Watermill to much acclaim for its fiftieth anniversary season two years ago. In this amiable revival, Ed MacArthur as the Detective and Jeremy Legat as (all twelve) suspects return for a short season that ends on 23rd February. 

The pocket-sized Watermill pioneered mini-musicals, with a version of Cabaret for a cast of just eight in 1998, making the venue a shoe-in for pared down shows like this.

The plot concerns the murder of a great American novelist at his birthday party. Was it the work of his wife, the side-lined singer Dahlia Whitney, or of Barrette Lewis, the pirouetting English prima ballerina? Or was it the ten choir boys whodunnit? But all this is pretty inconsequential, since the story’s main purpose is to provide a peg on which to hang the prodigious talents of the two performers.

Jeremy Legat works his socks off as the suspects. Deft gestures, a few props and a lot of vocal talent keep his twelve characters entertainingly distinct. Ed MacArthur as the small town would-be detective Marcus Moscowicz is not quite his straight man, since he has his own share of daft quick fire comedy. The duo demonstrate immaculate timing, not least when an audience member sneezed at a critical moment. The performers simultaneously shot back a ‘bless you’ without missing a beat. At other moments the ‘fourth wall’ was broken again, with a running gag about phones going off and some other surprises.

If you’re in the mood for light-hearted fizz, there’s plenty of it in this sparkling show directed by Luke Sheppard, with musical direction by Tom Attwood and an impressively gloomy set by Gabriella Slade.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by Scott Rylander


Murder for Two

Watermill Theatre until 23rd February


Watermill Theatre – winner of our 2018 Awards – Best Regional Theatre


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Teddy | ★★★★★ | January 2018
The Rivals | ★★★★★ | March 2018
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018


Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com