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The Diary of a Teenage Girl review at Southwark Playhouse – ‘a magnetic performance’

Rona Morison in The Diary of a Teenage Girl at Southwark Playhouse, London. Photo: Darren Bell

At the heart of this adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl is an extraordinary performance from Rona Morison. She plays Minnie, a girl caught between an affair with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe and a fractured upbringing in 1970s San Francisco.

It’s a hugely skilful performance from Morison, fearless and detailed: as she diarises, every scowl, twitch, lip bite and laugh is precise and weaponised, unafraid to be as irritable and unlikeable as she is precocious and vulnerable.

By the same token, the other characters are sketches in Minnie’s self-recorded drama, but there’s universally strong work from the rest of the cast, turning in a nightmarish pageant of disappointing adults.

Jamie Wilkes finds unlikely sympathy for Monroe, making him more of a self-deluding hustler than a sexual predator. While pop psychology explanations for the illicit relationship are teased, the piece is far more interested in (and interesting about) Minnie’s violent coming of age than apportioning blame.

Alexander Parker and Amy Ewbank’s exuberant production is slightly over-stuffed with entrances, exits, blackouts, amplification – almost everything is thrown at the wall and not all of it sticks.

Projection of Gloeckner’s original illustrations wittily woven into the design adds to the sense of graphic novel come to life, as charming as a pop-up book, but it highlights how vignette-y Marielle Heller’s adaptation is. The final section wisely relies on Morison’s powers of storytelling to deliver a sweet punch that’s as painful and hopeful as any teenage flashback.

 

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Verdict
The dizziness of adolescence captured in a colourful graphic novel adaptation with a magnetic central performance
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