START UP AWARD: Anthony Clare for The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ -The Musical
STAGE ONE START UP AWARDED TO ANTHONY CLARE
MOVE OVER CATS - IT’S TIME FOR A MOLE!
This joyous new musical adaptation of Sue Townsend‘s best-selling book The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ -The Musical arrives in London for a strictly limited season!
A timeless tale of teenage angst, family struggles and unrequited love, told through the eyes of tortured poet and misunderstood intellectual Adrian Mole. One of the most enduring comedy characters of all time, he’s the hapless, hilarious, spotty teenager who captured the zeitgeist of 1980s Britain.
With an infectious score and a script as sidesplittingly outrageous as the original novel, this critically acclaimed production brings Adrian’s story to life for a new generation of theatregoers.
Book and lyrics by Jake Brunger, music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary, directed by Luke Sheppard.
15 JUNE – 12 OCT, Ambassadors Theatre
How did you fall into producing? Is it something you always planned on pursuing?
I guess it’s the only role in theatre left to me, as I’ve exhausted all the others!
I started out on Stage Crew at school (we thought we were oh so cool wearing our black T-shirts printed with S.CREW). I acted in various school plays (first memory was aged 4 dressed as a Womble for some reason), and then found myself at the 1986 Edinburgh Fringe in a play about Eddie Cochrane (I had hair that could be turned into a quiff back in those days). But I realised that acting wasn’t for me when I appeared at Chester’s Little Theatre in Alan Bennett’s Enjoy playing the part of the son in drag. My inability to stay still for an entire act without corpsing was shameful.
At University I tried my hand at directing – but when I managed to turn down a young, unknown (but even then, talented) Rachel Weiss at an audition for The Importance of Being Earnest, I realised that wasn’t my forte either.
But it’s fair to say I’ve always had a passion for the theatre, and have always wanted to get stuck in however I can.
Can you explain a little about your journey getting Adrian Mole to the Ambassadors?
Back in 2013 I was a trustee director at Curve Theatre in Leicester, and was invited to a workshopped reading of a new musical they’d just commissioned as part of their mission to be the ‘home of new British musicals’. I loved it immediately. But the eureka moment was when I showed a filmed recording of it to my family, and then heard my 7 year old daughter sing one of the songs from it two days later in the bathroom. I just knew from that moment that there was something really special about it, and it had to be put on the stage.
Throughout this journey I’ve had two driving passions. The first is for the piece itself – so wonderfully crafted by the creative team of Jake and Pippa (the writers) and Luke (the director). And secondly a determination to protect Curve’s interest in it. They’re the ones who, as a subsidised theatre, took the initial risk on it and I felt (and still feel) a deep sense of responsibility to safeguard their show. I quickly learned the harsh reality that my good intentions had to be met with hard cash, and was hugely fortunate to be able put together a group of loyal backers that allowed me to team up with Peter Wilson and Iain Gillie at PW Productions to provide the enhancement funding that allowed Curve to present the world premiere in 2015. After that there were opportunities to possibly bring it to town, or even on tour, but never on a basis that we were comfortable would protect both investors and the integrity of the show. But then fortune struck when we managed to team up with David Ian Productions, and again provide some money to get it on at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2017, where it got rave reviews and some serious awards nominations.
And then history repeated itself. Opportunities came and went, until one frantic moment in March of this year. We thought we had a venue, we raised the money from a standing start (largely from that same team of original loyal backers), and then lost the venue – all in the space of a roller-coaster fortnight. But divine providence struck once again when just 5 days later we were offered The Ambassadors – a theatre that the team now tell me was their ideal venue all along!
So it’s been a journey of passion, resilience, patience – and above all, good fortune.
As a lawyer & producer, what are the similarities in both roles? Do you find there is any cross-over?
I’m a deal lawyer in real life, and the similarities are remarkable. While I may technically be the team leader on a transaction, I’m only as good as the team I’m working with. So the key is to surround yourself with a fantastic team, and then empower and trust them to do their very best work. There are lots of long hours (and I have to say some of the people working on Adrian Mole work a damn sight harder than many corporate lawyers I know!) so you have to be there for them, and be seen to be available to help sort out issues without judgment or favour. But don’t meddle unnecessarily. Team leaders shouldn’t be show ponies. And when there’s conflict – as there is in any deal – it always pays to remain courteous to the ‘other side’.
What have you found most challenging as a producer for this project?
See above – about remaining passionate, resilient and patient! But the challenges are far outweighed by the joys of working with the most brilliant team of people, especially those up at Curve.
One show you’ve seen and loved that will always stay with you?
Goodness, there are too many. I loved Once – The Musical for its immediacy and tenderness. Malthouse Melbourne’s Optimism, a riotous version of Voltaire’s Candide that I saw in Edinburgh in 2009, for its wild and comedic inventiveness. And Gatz by Elevator Repair Service for the sheer audacity of staging an 8-hour word for word rendition of The Great Gatsby.
But there will always be one moment that stands out – and of all things, it was a simple scene change that had me utterly transfixed. It was a production of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Robert Lindsay at the Haymarket in 1992. Following a boisterous battle scene, red confetti or something floats down from the ceiling representing the detritus and shrapnel of war, but then with simple lighting changes and a haunting score that fades to silence the confetti slowly changes to golden autumn leaves, then it’s the harsh white snow of winter, followed by gradual fade to pink for spring blossom and then back to gold until we realise that in the space of just two minutes we’ve been magically transported from the heat of war to a peaceful autumnal convent 14 years later. It was a moment of sublime theatrical magic.
And lastly…. did you have a diary when you were a teenager?
No. But I did read Adrian’s when I was 13.