Dear Diary, written and performed by Andi Snelling, is beautifully honest and funny. Using decades of diary keeping Andi has crafted a compelling show that anyone who’s been a girl can relate to. Snelling is a skilled vocalist and an ever engaging performer and knows how to milk a comic pause and what to leave in and what to leave out. The issues 14-year-old girls are concerned with and the language they use to express these in private don’t change over the decades by the sounds of things; at times it sounded like Andi was reading out of my own teenage diaries from the ’70s even though hers date from the ’90s.
As adolescents the business of trying to shape ourselves and our lives and fit in to the world while feeling on the outer is all-consuming. This show rejoices in the familiar, from the list of valued birthday presents a 13-year-old received to the later agonizing over whether one will ever be sufficiently attractive to the opposite sex – all the tropes of self-consciousness and self-doubt are here made funny without being made ridiculous.
Snelling’s strength is in her lack of self-indulgence even though the show is completely personal. In fact, the weakest spot is where she moves away from the personal in the segment Ask Diary. Although her performance carries this along nicely, it felt tacked on. There’s quite a bit of getting the audience to write things down which are later incorporated into shows happening on stage these days which can come across as padding. Looking deeply into a mirror during moments one is filled with self-doubt happens too often as well: there’s a mirror on the wall of the stage of The Butterfly Club and it’s obviously hard for performers to resist incorporating it into their shows in similar ways; this is the third time I’ve seen it used this way.
Something is left unresolved however, and although Snelling understandably doesn’t want to dwell on the awful, she’s a tad too oblique when telling the story of her dad. We don’t need much more, just a bit of clarity about seems to have been a psychotic episode so we can stop wondering and relax into the rest of Dear Diary. The question ‘Do I matter?’ is at the heart of this touchingly vulnerable show and who hasn’t asked that of themselves.
BY LIZA DEZFOULI