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Review: THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, Southwark Playhouse

Based on the graphic novel of the same name, Alexander Parker and Amy Ewbank's production of The Diary of a Teenage Girl is the latest show in The Little at Southwark Playhouse. This dark, irreverent comedy is a breath of fresh air (despite it taking a sinister turn).

Set in San Francisco in 1976, 15-year-old Minnie tells her story by way of an audio diary that she vows to keep every day. As with any teenage girl her life is packed full of drama, though slightly more than most - and it's all triggered by her sleeping with her mother's boyfriend, Monroe. For Minnie, the turbulent experience that is adolescence becomes almost unbearable as she struggles to work out what her feelings are, all the while experimenting with drugs and promiscuity.

The ever-adaptable space in The Little is transformed into a typically 1970s bedroom, all browns and oranges in geometric patterns, on a thrust performance area. The authenticity of the period is entirely present in Andrew Riley's design. A great Seventies soundtrack is also a welcome addition. Minnie is a keen artist, creating her own comics, and this aspect of her life is cleverly incorporated into the show by way of projections (Nina Dunn) on the back wall. They aren't overused, so retain their impact at regular points throughout the show.

The play boasts a small but impressive company. Of the supporting cast, Rebecca Trehearn and Jamie Wilkes shine as Minnie's mother (Charlotte) and Monroe respectively. They both have a great sense of comedy, but are also adept at switching to a more serious mode - especially when the story starts becoming darker.

Rona Morison is well and truly the star of the show, bringing Minnie's turbulent thoughts to life and managing to look completely sweet and innocent at all times. She captures the feistiness and independent spirit of her character, allying this with a vulnerable side that wrestles for prominence. Morison is not only extremely funny but also provides poignancy as her life begins to spiral out of control.

At 90 minutes straight through, it is a somewhat whirlwind ride around one extraordinary year in Minnie's life - nevertheless her immediately likeable personality draws you to her, sweeping the audience along as she develops into a young woman. It's a quirky show with standout performances: a winning combination.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl is at Southwark Playhouse until 25 March

Picture credit: Darren Bell

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