REVIEW – Secret Diaries (The Lowry)

Date: 02 April 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Secret Diaries, presented by Art with Heart, pays homage to our teenage years, the awkward time when you realise that life isn’t going to be as straight forward as you originally thought that it would be. When a thirty something year old Hayley returns home and starts to look through her old belongings, it doesn’t take much more than the smell of an old school polo shirt and  the familiar sound of her cassette player to transport her, and us, back to the 80’s.

As Hayley reminisces over her teenage experiences, laughs, loves and losses – she reads excerpts from her diary which are then animated and brought to life by the cast of three. Hayley is played well by Sarah Emmott, managing to portray the ups and downs of teenage angst vividly, as we follow her coming of age but also, more poignantly, her coming out as a gay woman.

Hayley is flanked by her best friend Deb (Catherine Pugh), a mouthy teen with a wet perm. The two friends work well together on stage, writer Sarah Evans has created two well layered characters, that we can laugh at and sympathise with all at once. Hayley’s father also seems to struggle to find his feet in an ever-changing world, played by Michael Forrest, we can empathise with his sentiment although his performance does feel awkward at times. Some of the scenes between Hayley and her father, particularly towards the end of the play did seem to lose some momentum.

Designer Lynsey Akehurst‘s stage design and soundtrack was a technical highlight and the star of the show for me. The flashbacks from the present to Hayley’s teenage years could have posed quite a challenge but Akehurst’s ingenious set design, 80’s soundtrack and speedy costume changes made light work of two decades. And Rachel Moorhouse‘s fluid direction ensured that the stage was swiftly changed to suggest a classroom, a teenage bedroom and a trusty old park bench with ease. Sound bites from a news reel signifying the Iron Curtain falling and snippets from the Band Aid II single all succeeded in suggesting the passage of time.

Secret Diaries is worth checking out for reminiscence purposes alone, packed full of guilty pleasures from the eighties and nineties, Sweater Shop jumpers and Smash Hits posters, that will make you smile and reminisce about your own experiences.

-Kristy Stott