King’s Head Theatre, Islington.
I fail to see – because I do not happen to be a ’Somebody’ – why my diary should not be interesting. My only regret is that I did not commence it when I was a youth.
The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith
No-one really wants to be a nobody, least of all pompous office clerk Charles Pooter. He raises his profile – in his own eyes at least – with a diary, detailing 15 months of his very ordinary existence. He struggles with cheek from tradesmen, lack of respect from the juniors at work, and the trials of a renegade son, Lupin. But all this normality, of course, is lifted into another realm of comic entertainment by George and Weedon Grossmith. George was no stranger to writing for laughs – he was himself an actor and solo performer, who toured one-man comedy cabaret shows extremely successfully.
Pooter’s story began as a series of hugely popular articles in Punch magazine. They were eventually published as The Diary of a Nobody in 1892, later described by Evelyn Waugh as ‘the funniest book in the world’.
In 1984 Keith Waterhouse revived its fortunes by writing an affectionate homage, Mrs Pooter’s Diary, which was then meshed with the original to create Mr and Mrs Nobody, performed in the West End by Judi Dench and Michael Williams.
So there’s an august history, which makes it quite a challenge to stage afresh, but the show opening at the King’s Head theatre is already a revival for director Mary Franklin, whose adaptation had a successful run last summer.
In the interim, Rough Haired Pointer’s company of six has been trimmed to four, and their frenetic, all-action show breaks away completely from any expectation of a ‘reading-out-loud-from-a-diary’ format.
‘They’re playing 45 parts between them, so it’s a something of a whirlwind, with lots of ad-libbing and unexpected surprises,’ says Franklin. ‘Pooter may be sharing mundane details but Grossmith’s brilliantly “awkward’ stye of comic writing precedes the cringe-worthy scenes of The Office or Peep Show by over 100 years.’
Weedon Grossmith’s original drawings contributed greatly to Pooter’s success, and their outines are sketched on to the actors’ costumes. ‘It helps to create the Diary’s original atmosphere – but unfortunately means their clothes can’t be washed,’ explains Franklin. ‘So while they love doing the show, it is rather a sweaty heaven…’
The story is lifted beyond satire by the true love that’s evident between Pooter and his wife Carrie, who laugh heartily at each other’s feeble jokes and puns. At one point Pooter writes: ‘I spent the evening quietly with Carrie, of whose company I never tire.’
That’s not to say she doesn’t tire of him from time to time, but the success of their marriage is at the heart of this adaptation, which runs at the King’s Head Theatre from January 20th until – rather appropriately for a chaotic love story – Valentine’s Day, February 14th.
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN
Tickets kingsheadtheatre.com and 0207 478 0160
Tuesday 20th January – Saturday 14th February 2015, 7pm
Saturday 14th February matinee, 3pm
No performances on Sundays
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