Though I’m about to leave teenage-hood, I’m still a sixteen year old girl at heart and I enjoy hipster films about teenagers with unrealistically good taste in music discovering their sexuality, or whatever. Thus, I was excited for this play. I knew the story was originally a graphic novel (author Phoebe Gloeckner’s name is interestingly similar to that of protagonist Minnie Goetz) and was familiar with the film version starring Alexander Skarsgård and Kristen Wiig. In hindsight, I don’t know which medium – graphic novel, film or play – is best suited to capturing this story.
As the audience enters the Little space at the Southwark Playhouse, a small studio theatre (which doesn’t justify the ticket prices in my eyes), we are greeted by what is clearly, gloriously, an attic bedroom in the 70s. Bright, orange themed patterns over the walls and, among the period furniture and hippie-esque knitted throws, an expressionistically exaggerated slanted window looms at the back. We are in a San Francisco apartment at a very colourful time in the city’s history. Minnie is sitting on her bed sketching (her colourful doodles are projected on the back walls during scene changes), impressively oblivious to the people coming into the space. The play’s excellent soundtrack blares.
But soon we encounter the first problem. It’s an apartment, not a ‘flat’, as one character (I forget who) refers to it right at the start. This slip into British English is one of many things I felt were not quite polished about this production. Both Minnie’s mother and Munro, said mother’s boyfriend (whom Minnie begins a sexual relationship with), are not very convincing in their roles. I was looking forward to seeing Rebecca Trehearn, so loaded in Showboat at the New London Theatre, but I found her bland and implausible as Minnie’s free-spirited mother – though that may have been the writing failing her. Guildhall graduate Rona Morison as Minnie was my favourite actor in this play, though her narration to the audience felt more real than her dialogue with the other characters.
With a stronger supporting cast and a more finished feel to the scenes, this would be a very good small-scale production. I expected more from it, though I still enjoyed it and felt it told an interesting storyline well.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl is playing at Southwark Playhouse until 25 March 2017. For tickets and more information, click here.