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Sunday, 31 December, 2000, 00:15 GMT
The return of the Mole

Adrian Mole returns in The Cappuccino Years
Adrian Mole has grown up, shed his pimples, become a father and returns to our screens in the New Year in The Cappuccino Years.

Almost 20 years after the gangly, awkward teenager became a metaphor for all pubescent life, writer Sue Townsend has brought him to our screens again.

I've had 18 years of his innermost, darkest, deepest thoughts to read

Steven Mangan

Unsurprisingly, he has not changed that much - his pretensions, anxieties and failings remain.

This time around Stephen Mangan plays the eponymous anti-hero in a new adaptation for BBC One.

"In a way it feels like playing a real person," he said.

"He is out there and I feel a bit of an impostor.

'Very funny'

"I've not only had Sue on set to ask any questions, I've also had 18 years of his diaries to read - his innermost, darkest deepest, dirtiest thoughts since he was 13 years old."

Writer Sue Townsend has nothing but praise for Mangan's performance.

"I've enjoyed every minute of it. I've been on set nearly every single day and really enjoyed seeing Steven work.

"One of the difficulties was in not laughing and ruining all of the takes and a lot of the crew felt that.

"A lot of the time we had out hands over our mouths. He is very funny."

'Coffee-shop culture'

Adrian Mole is not just a figure of fun or soft comedy target - he is emblematic of the age in which we live.

The title, The Cappuccino Years, relates to not just the current craze for coffee shop culture, explained Townsend.

"It is a metaphor for the fact that Adrian Mole has a mixed race son whose skin is the colour of cappuccino, it is also a metaphor for the Labour government; a lot of froth - very little coffee.

"Adrian Mole is a conduit for what the country is like.

"He's perfect because Adrian is quite easily influenced and he just expresses what it is like to live in the country at the time.

"So in a sense, I am not that interested in Adrian, but what it is like to live in specifically England."

Adrian is a ball of frustration and pomposity

Steven Mangan
His concerns in the Secret Diary were sex, Pandora and puberty.

His more mature concerns in The Cappuccino Years seem to be sex, Pandora and writing his first novel.

Now 37 years old, he is a celebrity chef at a pretentious restaurant and still pursuing Pandora, a prospective Labour MP.

"Adrian is a ball of frustration and pomposity and he thinks he is much cleverer than he is," said Mangan.

"He sets himself up constantly for a fall. But it is just his way of dealing with the world.

"Adrian is out there trying to get the woman of his dreams to love him, he wants to do a job he enjoys that says something about himself."

When the The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole came out in the early 1980s it quickly established itself as a must-read for any self-respecting teenager.

"My parents were very keen to see me reading and it was one of the very first books I got into," said Mangan.

"When you get to 11, 12 and that was the book that was out and it felt like a friend talking about things parents didn't know anything of.

"The way it was written was almost as if it was by someone who knew what it was like to be that age."

I have got the Prostate Years planned

Sue Townsend

Writer John Updike famously followed the life and fortunes of one character in his influential Rabbit series of books.

It is a series that Townsend admires greatly.

"John Updike's Rabbit books are my very favourite books of all time and if only I could get anything near to that I would be happy," she said.

There is even the possibility that Adrian Mole could return once more.

"I have got the Prostate Years planned. If I'm, around and Stephen is around that would be very good."

Mangan added: "I want Adrian and Pandora to get together in their 80s. He can change her incontinence pants and wipe dribble from her chin."

"It's the only way he'll ever get near her, when she's completely ga-ga. I can tell you that," retorted Sue Townsend.

The Cappuccino Years is on BBC One in the New Year.

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