Tag Archives: Matilda Hopkins

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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Fiddler on the Roof
★★★★★

Menier Chocolate Factory

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof

Menier Chocolate Factory

Reviewed – 6th December 2018

★★★★★

“warm and intimate, yet vast and epic at the same time”

 

“Fiddler on the Roof” is based on the stories of one of the most famous and beloved of all Jewish writers; Sholem Aleichem, who came to be known as the ‘folk singer’ of the Russian shtetl. Written between 1894 and 1914 the stories were a series of stand-alone monologues told by the character of Tevye to the reader. Aleichem had started to amalgamate these into a dramatic adaptation but died before he could finish it, but what he had already managed to do in his tales was to capture the hunger and the passion of his people trying to survive under desperate circumstances, but also the humour and the irony.

The often-staged musical has reflected this with varying degrees of success, but it is safe to say that Trevor Nunn’s revival hits the notes perfectly with a truly magical mix of mockery and menace. The story centres on Tevye, the father of five daughters, and his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon his family’s lives, not least of which is the edict of the Tsar that evicts Jews from Russia. At the same time, he is coping with the strong-willed actions of his three eldest daughters who wish to marry for love and whose choice of husband moves further away from the customs of the faith and heritage that he is, sometimes reluctantly, clinging onto. This production brings to the fore the deeply rich humour of Joseph Stein’s book. But we are never quite allowed to escape the shadow of the impending threat of exile.

Andy Nyman makes this show his own with his portrayal of the patriarch ruled by his wife, Golde (a perfectly pitched performance from Judy Kuhn). Nyman’s effortless stage presence sculpts a wholly heartfelt and honest portrayal of his character, veering between tradition and compassion, and bending his beliefs, where necessary, for love. He knows exactly when to switch on and off the comedy, a skill matched by the entire ensemble. The same sensitivity is applied to Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics. Often unfairly branded as kitsch, the poignancy and the irony are accentuated by the fine performances. And combined with Jerry Bock’s sumptuous score, orchestrated for an eight-piece band, it is an exceptionally moving piece of musical theatre.

Choreographer Matt Cole remains faithful to Jerome Robbins’ original which is a feast for the eye. In fact, all our senses are treated to this outstanding rendition. Full of belly laughs it is a cry from the heart. The gorgeous strains of “Sunrise, Sunset” segue into a euphoric wedding dance which, in turn, is broken by the arrival of a vicious tsarist pogrom.

It is warm and intimate, yet vast and epic at the same time. It speaks softly to each of us yet its message shouts out to all of us. The source material is over a century old, but it is still sadly topical and the final scene where the villages flee their homeland is breathtakingly stirring. The musical ends not with a bang but a whisper. Not with a chorus line but a band of silent souls heading towards an uncertain future. The lone fiddler is beckoned, and he steps down from the roof to follow them.

All that can follow this is the standing ovation this production deserves. A production that is heading towards a far from uncertain future.     

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Johan Persson

 


Fiddler on the Roof

Menier Chocolate Factory until 9th March

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
The Gronholm Method | ★★★★ | May 2018

 

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