Northampton actor pays tribute to late playwright, Sue Townsend

Actor, Tony Howes, at the opening of Adrian Mole at Wyndham's Theatre in London
Actor, Tony Howes, at the opening of Adrian Mole at Wyndham's Theatre in London

The Northampton based actor who played almost every character in the original West End production of Adrian Mole has paid tribute to its writer, Sue Townsend, who died yesterday.

Tony Howes, who lives in Abington in Northampton, said he visited the 68-year-old at her home in Leicester last week and said that she was “laughing as always” and even gave him “a big kiss”.

Although she wrote other books and plays, Ms Townsend was best known for her Adrian Mole diaries, a coming-of-age series following the life of an awkward, but charismatic, teenager.

The pair met in 1984 when Mr Howes auditioned for the first Adrian Mole stage production at the Phoenix theatre in Leicester.

Mr Howes said: “I read a piece by Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream and they first cast me as Barry Kent, Adrian’s bully. Then I played Adrian’s best friend, Nigel, then the electrician and then Adrian himself when we took it to Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End.

“Before the show hit London and I was doing theatre studies. I was on £10, but Sue launched my career and changed my life.”

Sue Townsend was an avid patron of the Phoenix Theatre before she began writing the Adrian Mole diaries, which were then picked up and aired on Radio 4.

When she turned the entries into a book and made her first million, she used the money to take her family on holiday.

Mr Howes said: “Sue was very generous and always down to earth.

“As a writer she was a genious; she left school at 15 with no O-levels and was a divorced mother of two by the time she was 23.”

“Although through her own hard work she became very successful, money never went to Sue’s head. She refused to allow any Adrian Mole merchandising because she thought it unfair to encourage children to buy poor quality toys.

“Despite being a millionaire she bought a small vicarage in Leicester and still lived there with a canoe in her front room and a fridge door that wouldn’t shut when I saw her last week.”

Sue Townsend died yesterday aged 68 at her home near Leicester’s Phoenix Theatre following a short illness. She leaves behind four children: Sean, Daniel, Victoria and Elizabeth.