A gigantic Scottish cat named Angus, a thong-wearing arch-enemy and so much snogging that there’s a Snog-o-meter on stage just to help you keep track. In short, Angus, Thongs and Even More Snogging does exactly what it says on the tin.
Louise Rennison’s new adaptation of her own bestselling teenage phenomenon, the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series, is as frothy and fun as the shades of bubblegum pink that cover the posters. From the perspective of a former devotee to the books, Rennison’s adaptation (adeptly aided by TV writer Mark Catley), completely captures the carefree kookiness of the novels, alive with Georgia’s quirky vocabulary, where very is “vair”, “osity” makes any word better (think “amazingosity”) and mum and dad are “mutti” and “vati”. This is delivered with aplomb by Naomi Peterson as Georgia, who guides us through the story of her life with confidence, but it is perhaps difficult to overcome the awkwardness of phrases such as “Jas the spas” and “nunga-nungas”, which maybe just work better – and less offensively – on the page rather than the stage.
Condensing an entire series of books into a single stage play is no easy task and undoubtedly necessitates some rather swift twists and turns as Georgia juggles a total of three would-be snogees during the course of two hours. Peterson keeps Georgia just on the right side of self-indulgent, offering us both a boy-obsessed diva and a loving sister devoted to her younger sibling Libby and the family wildcat, Angus. The adventures of Georgia and her Ace Gang centre almost entirely on the pursuit of boys and the inevitable dramas that result from the girls’ quest to reach number 10 on the snog-o-meter as they fall out, make up and mercilessly tease German teacher Herr Kamyer (a vivacious George Potts).
As is to perhaps be expected, much of the play isn’t really about anything; a collection of anecdotes ranging from the hilarious to the cringeworthy are brought together seamlessly by director Ryan McBryde’s fast-paced style. Hannah Clark’s gloriously girly design is sure to delight with its glittery loveheart and cupcake motifs, and complements McBryde’s direction well, with moveable stage blocks creating a multitude of locations from Georgia’s bedroom to the park to the rehearsal room of her beloved sex god Robbie.
The main conflict of the play comes in the form of said sex god. Having lusted after him throughout his doomed relationship with Wet Lindsay (portrayed with a delightfully vicious flair by Mabel Clements), Georgia finally gets her chance. But when Robbie moves away, it isn’t long before Italian Stallion Massimo is on the scene to wipe away her tears. Edward Green and Leon Scott present two entertaining stereotypes and are sure to inspire a few schoolgirl crushes of their own. It is Lewis Rainer, however, who will capture your heart as the hopeless and hapless Dave the Laugh.
There’s much laughter to be had here, courtsey of a first half Valentines finale as Georgia gets together with Robbie, and a sidesplitting one-minute rendition of Romeo and Juliet. In a production brimming with bubbly performances from a superb young cast (notable performances from Rachel Caffrey as a likeable Jas, Emily Houghton as a fantastically bizarre “Ooh-err-ing” Rosie and Yemisi Oyinloye as the shy Ellen who gradually comes out of her shell as the play progresses), one of the grown-ups, Margaret Cabourn-Smith, cannot go without a mention. In a hilarious and perfectly observed comedic turn as drama teacher Miss Wilson, Cabourn-Smith had the entire audience in stitches and should be remembered as a standout performance of the night.
In an innovative twist, the cast also double up as puppeteers and stagehands, moving the staging blocks into place with wry smiles and comic acknowledgements from the characters. Operating the gigantic and frankly terrifying Angus puppet and eerie Libby mannequin demonstrates the diversity of the young cast, creating their own sound effects to establish the illusion of reality. This of course facilitates much of the comedy, but also paves the way for some of the more thought-provoking and redemptive moments of the play, when Georgia finally forgets about the boydem and stays up all night with a poorly Angus.
Fresh and funny, this is a production about teenage girls for teenage girls – and for girls in their twenties, it’s a cringeworthy but nostalgic reminder of a misspent youth. Even if you only read the Rennison books, rather than actually visiting a snogging expert yourself. And for lads? There might not be quite so much entertainment, but it will give you an insight into the workings of a girl’s mind. Just don’t take too much notice of Georgia; she’s rather a special case, shall we say… One word of warning: if you’re not the interactive type, beware the Viking Bison Disco Inferno Dance. Otherwise, you’ll be away laughing on a fast camel before you know it.
Angus, Thongs and Even More Snogging plays at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 3 March. The Playhouse operates a free tickets for under 26s scheme. For more information and to book tickets, visit the theatre’s website.
Image credit: Keith Pattison