Sue Townsend was a Leicester girl through and through. She was funny, feisty, a brilliant writer whose book "The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged thirteen and three quarters" oh so rightly thrust her into the spotlight.
I didn't see Sue very often, but one of the last times I had a really good chat with her was at the opening of a new eating place in Leicester. It was hot in there....Sue was in a wheelchair by this time and she asked me to take her outside for a breath of fresh air and a fag. " Oh, and bring us a glass of something. "I can't remember whether it was prosecco or champagne I swept off the waiter's tray , but I brought out two glasses, and we sat outside gossiping.
Adrian Mole wasn't mentioned once.
My initial reaction to the announcement of a musical about Adrian Mole's wasn't one of absolute delight. Rather a groan, wondering how on earth this would turn out. I hadn't enjoyed the television series as much as I thought I would, and I was seriously wondering whether this new musical at Curve would work.
So, press night at the Curve, and I was sitting with friends on the second row ...feeling oddly slightly nervous. A familiar voice rang out in my ears as someone sat down behind me..Christopher Biggins was there....oh, he is a love. So friendly and ready to enjoy himself.
So the curtain opened and Adrian aka Joel Fossard-Jones was right there in front of us. making us smile immediately - getting Sue's lines out with naievity, self righteousness, and pompousness .
Sue's story, set in Thatcherite Britain on a Leicester council estate , unfolded on stage with a vim and a verve which swept us engagingly on waves of laughter again and again.
Cameron Blakely playing the creepy Mr Lucas with a lusty laviousness and brio made me howl, Amy Booth Steel had me in fits of giggles as the gormless Miss Elf, (her comic timing was wonderful) and Elise Tiam Bugeja is excellent as Pandora, a bossier, more passionate Hermoine Grainger. No wonder Adrian was bamboozled. And no wonder Christopher Biggins in the seat behind me was chortling loudly throughout.
But as Adrian's small world increasingly becomes a foreign country, through first love ,"Oh Pandora , I adore ya" and the very gradual realisation that his parents are getting divorced, there were tears too with some touching scenes between Adrian and his mum played by Kirsty Hoiles.
Rosemary Ashe , as the sniffy, ascerbic grandma performed the stand out song of the night with a pathos and a fury which was mesmerising, and made my eyes fill up with tears. I don't know whether Christopher Biggins was shedding a tear too, because he'd gone awfully and uncharacteristically quiet.
But not for long though, Sue's wit, soon had us all laughing and cheering, and as the final curtain came down, there was a standing ovation plus whoops and a hollering from a rapturous audience. I've not seen something like that for a while. Do yourself a favour, and go...it's perfect for intellectuals like Adrian and others.
So how many stars would I give it out of ten? Nine and three quarters...and the only reason I've knocked off a quarter , is the fact that the notoriously difficult to nail Leicester accent was constantly veering along the M6 to the West Midlands by some of the cast.