The beguiling life of an aged 13 ¾ boy with a case of severely misunderstood intellectualism was captured in Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole book series in the early eighties and quickly became a beloved addition to childhood bookcases.
But almost four decades later, Adrian Mole is taking on new ground in his first West End production and the young actors named to play him have said that a 21st Century Mole, unlike his contemporaries, wouldn’t be on SnapChat.
Speaking at The London Welsh Centre, where rehearsals for Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ The Musical is well underway, the four Adrians said that if the character were navigating the social media climate of today “he would stick with the diary”.
Rufus Kampa, 12, from Bucks, Michael Hawkins, 12, from Haringey, Aaron Gelkoff, 13, from Redbridge and Nicholas (Nicky) Antoniou-Tibbitts, aged 13 and ⅔, from Westminster, will take it in turn to perform twice weekly during the limited run at the Ambassadors Theatre.
When asked if Adrian Mole would use social media 13-year-old Aaron said: “I think he would stick with the diary. I don’t think he would use SnapChat.”
Michael agreed: “He probably wouldn’t like everyone knowing what’s happening in his life. He’s quite a proud person.”
Being the star of a West End musical is a dream come true for the boys who were all cast over three weeks.
“The final audition was really nerve-wracking,” said Michael. “That night I was just lying in bed wide awake and kept asking my mum, ‘have you got any news?’”
The 12-year-old found out he’d been cast in the role when he returned home from school to a surprise party.
“My parents were keeping it as a surprise. They were really excited about it,” he said.
Aaron was told by text the day after his audition: “I was at school in the playground talking to my friends and all of a sudden I got a text and I screamed and everyone was looking at me. I got so embarrassed.”
Meanwhile, Nicky and his family had to keep postponing their holiday due to callbacks but were happily on a beach in France when his agent confirmed the part.
When asked what they have most in common with Adrian, Rufus quickly responded: “Getting nervous around girls”.
Director Luke Sheppard (In the Heights, Matilda) added that they were “building up to” the kiss between Adrian and Pandora, with the latter being played by Molly May Gibson, Matilda Hopkins, Rebecca Nardin and Riya Vyas.
With just four weeks until opening night, the 16 young members of the cast spend their evenings in rehearsal learning defiant melodies such as “Misunderstood” and “Take a Stand” with musical direction from Mark Collins, books and lyrics by Jake Brunger and music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary.
The production has had two previous runs at Leicester's Curve theatre in 2015 and the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2017.
The books sold 20 million copies worldwide and have been adapted for radio and television. Sue Townsend was involved with the production until her death in 2014.
Mr Sheppard said he didn’t want the musical to ever feel like “work” for the boys but instead “something really special.”
Aaron agreed: “The read through yesterday was hilarious. It feels like we’re going to be a big family.”