The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ is a stage musical based on the well-known young adult novel by Sue Townsend. Taking its rightful place in London’s West End this summer, it’s an infectious musical comedy.
It’s a coming-of-age story about a young lad who is navigating his way through the highs and lows of being a teenager. Amy-Ellen Richardson talked to me about playing the role of Pauline, Adrian’s mother in the show.
“It’s bonkers in parts, but what it does have is so much heart,” Amy said. “It touches on such relatable subjects that everyone can identify with at some stage in their life. Such as dysfunctional families, divorce, children, growing up, puberty, your first love. Everybody can relate to it no mate what age you are.”
Amy hadn’t read the book as a child, nor seen the show before getting involved. But she soon fell absolutely head-over-heels for the production. The writers Jake Brunger and Pippa Clearly have taken Sue Townsend’s much-loved story and breathed new life into it. “They’ve really worked miracles on it,” Amy explained. “Sue Townsend’s writing is just brilliant, she is so humorous, witty and clever. What Jake and Pippa have done is just amazing, the music and script are just sublime and they deserve the biggest success.”
It’s refreshing to have another fantastic British musical on a West End stage. Since the show’s conception seven years ago with Leicester Curve, it has taken an enormous journey. “The director Luke Sheppard, Jake and Pippa have all been working on it with Sue since the very start so I am so delighted to be part of its West End run.”
Amy plays Pauline, Adrian’s mother who is struggling to conform as an 80s housewife. “Pauline has been married to her husband George for 20 years. It’s the 1980s so women knew their place back then and they weren’t really expected to go out to work. She has quite a mundane life and feels trapped, she wants to do something for herself and be her own woman,” Amy said.
“Her maternal instinct doesn’t come naturally to her, she struggles with Adrian and raising a teenage boy. he wants her independence and she is just quite sad, as a female in that time she just feels trapped and makes some quite radical decisions. For me it is a challenge as they are quite difficult decisions to understand. I have to try and get the audience to sympathise with why she makes those decisions, why she decides to move out of the family home. As a mother that is a very difficult decision to make.
“It’s a journey of self discovery and it all comes good in the end for everybody. It is a gift of a role and I am enjoying every second of it.”
Amy emphasised the challenge of taking a role that is so complex and relating that to a 21st century audience. “One minute you’re crying with laughter and the next you’re crying because you’ve been moved. It’s escapism and I feel very lucky as a human being in this world right now that I am able to give people that chance to escape,” she explained. “I love this role because it gives me a bit of everything. It’s a musical comedy but it is filled with so much heart.”
Alongside the nuanced characters in the show, Amy was particularly drawn to the music. “It’s so beautifully written and so rich, you have numbers that sound like they should be in Les Mis and then something like ‘Misunderstood’ which is really catchy, then these beautiful stripped back ballads like ‘Perfect Mother.’ I get to do so much in it and as a singer, I was driven to the fact it is so driven by narrative,” she said.
“The orchestrations are so lush, it is a joy and such a beautiful score. I really think Jake and Pippa are the next big thing, people need to watch out for them because they are super talented and also really humble and lovely. They don’t know how talented they are and for us to be able to sing those songs every night is an absolute joy it really is.”
Ultimately it is a showing about growing up told through a multitude of characters that are honest and real. Amy gushed about the kids and how talented they are, but particular how hard they work during this tremendous show.
“It’s a whole kaleidoscope of ages in there so you get stories, opinions and perspectives from all different ages all at different times in their lives,” she said. “It is just saying that we are all constantly learning, no matter what age we are. We are all learning about ourselves, about life, about each-other.”
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ is on at the Ambassadors Theatre in London until the 28th of September, tickets and information can be found on their website.