The Diary of a Teenage Girl has opened at The Southwark Playhouse in a UK Premiere conceived by Alexander Parker. This is Marielle Heller’s adaptation of the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner which was made into a film following its run in the US. This production has been directed by Alexander Parker and Amy Ewbank.
In 1976 San Francisco, fifteen-year-old Minnie Goetze embarks on a secret affair with her mother’s boyfriend, Monroe, in this coming of age comedy-drama. Minnie is experiencing a sexual awakening framed by a desire to be seen as an adult while still confined by the trappings of teenage life. As an aspiring cartoonist, she records her thoughts in a series of drawings and by keeping a diary on a tape recorder.
Rona Morison gives an exceptional performance as Minnie, she manages to find that rare balance between realistic adolescent and irritating teenager. She is able to show confidence and vulnerability in equal measure, as the scene demands, and pulls out all of the emotional stops in the final scenes. She is supported by solid performances from Jamie Wilkes as Monroe and the very talented Rebecca Trehearn as her bohemian mother, Charlotte.
The staging of The Diary of a Teenage Girl is quite exceptional. The kitsch 1970’s wallpaper is overlaid with ingenious video projections, by Nina Dunn, which bring Minnie’s drawings to life as well as giving context to the action. It is in one particular scene, Minnie and Monroe are tripping on hallucinogenic drugs, when you can see the detail that has gone in to these projections, as the pattern literally dances off of the wall.
Sound design by James Nicholson is also on point, when the truth about the affair is inevitably revealed, an uncomfortable bass portrays the torment of the characters. The short bursts of 1970’s music also help set the scene.
A remarkable performance from Rona Morison and some really accomplished staging makes The Diary of a Teenage Girl a striking production that is fresh and visceral, it demonstrates that off-West End productions can be as visually compelling as anything seen on a West End stage.