I understand this was a youth premier of the show which was originally written for 10 adults, playing all the young roles, so taking the show and working with a young cast was the first challenge from the society.
The set within the Cramphorn Theatre was cleverly designed showing a variety of different locations all merged together with direct access from 2 contrasting doors at the centre back, a side entrance via curtains, and staircase to a raised bedroom and up to the back rostra. All areas were well used, although more use of the top rostra would have been nice. I loved the live set changes by the cast and good lighting allowed us to focus on specific areas easily.
The shows story runs from 1st January to 31st December in 1981 following the writings and musings from Adrian’s personal diary. With a large cast aged between 8 and 18 this was challenging musically, as there are not any well-known songs and some unusual harmonies and discordant melodies.
Leading the company was Gene Gardner as Adrian Mole, Gene managed the eccentricities of the character with great charm and personality. He brought all mannerisms to the role of an awkward geeky teenage boy, however on occasion there was some over gesticulation with a great number of arm and hand moves which made it a little distracting to watch but this is only a very minor issue.
Playing Adrian’s best friend Nigel was Dara Gleeson, Nigel also shows us the full range of teenage angst from trying to be so cool to being a love struck teen, and he did a great job, making up the trio was Anna Edmondson as Pandora. Anna has a lovely singing voice and knows how to put over a number – she is definitely one to watch in the future.
Playing Adrian’s parents Pauline and George were Bethany Irvine and Hayden Wagland respectively. Both delivered good characterisations, as playing older parts can be difficult.
The oldest characters on stage are Grandma and Bert. Playing pensioners when you are only in your teens asks a lot to make it believable. Fortune Ibrahim as Grandma understood how to act when you are over 50 and Sam Acton brought a great character to life as the grudgingly grumpy old man, Bert. He did a fantastic bringing lots of comedic moments to the show.
Other characters included Barry the Bully played by Joe Papalie, Miss Elf the teacher, played by Jess Martin and Lauren Eley as the headteacher, Mrs Scruton. All these were good performances. The last two characters were Mr Lucas, the lothario neighbour, this was a well observed and beautifully underplayed portrayal by Tommy Edwards and Lucy Burrows as Dirty Doreen, Lucy gave us such a strong character and great stage presence, giving overall an outstanding performance.
The whole cast worked really well in quite a restrictive space, my only other comment was the poor diction from everyone, when the audience don’t know the words, then it is vital that clear diction and good annunciation are used throughout. All the costumes and props felt period appropriate and added to the whole overall production.
The Band led by Bryan Cass was excellent, it never over balanced the sound of the cast and supported them brilliantly.
Congratulations to Jimmy Hooper, the Director and his team on delivering such a challenging production with such a young cast.