The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (Aged 13 ¾) | Review
The MAC, Belfast • Runs until 07 October 2017
By Conor O’Neill
Thatcher, the Beano annual, Rubik’s Cubes, the Brixton riots, shell-suits, the Falklands war… yep, we’re back at the start of the 80s and quickly thrown into the not-so-secret world of Adrian Mole (Aged 13 3/4). If you can remember your teens, (who can forget?) those three quarters really count; especially to our young protagonist, would-be intellectual, Adrian Mole esquire.
Bruiser Theatre Company celebrates its 20th birthday this year and for the first time in its history, returns to a show they first aired in 2005. I didn’t get the chance to see the first production, but knowing Bruiser’s knack for quirky updates, no doubt there’s a twist of lemon added by director and founder, Lisa May, to both titillate her and us. The set is typically minimalist: a huge block of a book – the diary, of course – stands centre stage just to the back and acts as cover for the four other cast members to change from bully to lecherous neighbour, Pandora to nosy gran, school girl to adulterous mother and all another manner of characters whose existence, is to Adrian’s mind, are put on earth simply to annoy his peace.
We have all the ingredients from Sue Townsend’s original; the depressed dad George, the eel of a neighbour in the form of Mr Lucas, whose paws are rarely far from the bosom of mum Pauline, the school bully that is Nigel and of course the beautiful and posh Pandora. As the clock strikes twelve and ushers in 1981 our young Ginsberg in the making ignores the partying downstairs and makes resolutions for the coming year. 1. Help the blind; 2. Not start smoking; 3. Stop squeezing spots and the other well-meant intentions. If only things were so easy.
Belfast’s Adam Dougal plays Adrian perfectly. Hell, he even looks like the Adrian from the book and TV series, with his trousers at half mast, spectacles and duffle coat. Colette Lennon – again, from Belfast – plays the unreachable Pandora and three other local actors, namely, Gerard McCabe, Keith Lynch and Orla Mullan fulfil the many others characters completing young Mole’s reality. The cast’s performance was faultless; all have good singing voices and the harmonies are to die for. Special mention must be made for Mullan; her voice is simply out of this world.
Contrary to my expectation, the audience was not made up of those in their forties and fifties who I assumed would be the target group and readers of the original and followers of the 1985 TV series, it was a school night. Teens filled The MAC, all 329 seats were taken and at the interval, the bar staff sold Coca-Cola by the litre. When I first walked in I assumed I’d made a wrong turn and landed myself at a Justin Bieber gig. Whether or not these young ‘uns got the above references and somewhat filthy innuendos is beyond me, but they sure did appear to be having fun.
As typical with Bruiser’s shows, a lot is made of very little; the stage transfers from classroom to bedroom, beach to shed – where a rather graphic scene had many a parent blushing and covering their kid’s eyes; no doubt preparing explanations for afterwards. The cast move in pure unison and everything goes like clockwork. The plot and acting is spot on… just one question: where’s the ruler?
A fine night of theatre and well worth your money if you fancy a trip down memory lane or simply enjoy Bruiser’s unique slant on theatre. If you miss the show before it ends its run at the MAC on 07 October, you can catch it on tour in Ballina, Mullingar, Lisburn, Dublin, Armagh and Derry. To book at The MAC phone the box office on 02890 235053 or visit www.themaclive.com for other venues and dates visit www.bruisertheatrecompany.com