King’s Head Theatre, Islington.
Charles Pooter’s diary of 19th century suburbia is brought to life in this energetic and chaotic adaptation.
Rough Haired Pointer are a young and exuberant company, and their latest production is a take on a comic literary classic, George and Weedon Grossmith’s The Diary of a Nobody, which opens the new season at The King’s Head theatre in Islington.
It’s been adapted from the book published in 1892, after its successful appearance in Punch magazine as a series of articles. The Diary was an immediate hit and remains a brilliantly dry account of a very ordinary suburban family. Charles Pooter’s everyday life may appear crushingly dull to other people, but is full of interest and incident to its author who sees himself very much as a ‘somebody’, no matter how many tradesmen snub him.
Director Mary Franklin is a graduate of the King’s Head Theatre’s Resident Trainee Director scheme, and has condensed 15 months of Charles’ life and loves into 100 minutes without an interval.
This is quite a long stretch, especially as Karina Nakaninsky’s set is monochrome, (cleverly reflecting the original drawings by Weedon Grossmith) and there are no scene changes. However the cast, sharing the raft of characters between them, show a determination to enjoy the show and demonstrate their comic prowess.
While they are successful for much of the Diary, the urge to get laughs from physical comedy is perhaps given too free a rein – after all, though we can laugh at Pooter, he takes his own importance mighty seriously.
There’s also a missed opportunity in the relationship between Carrie and Charles. Jordan Mallory-Skinner makes a beautiful Carrie, but he doesn’t allow us to forget he’s a man dressed up in a skirt. And the tenderness that binds them as a couple is skated over, when really it should be at the core of the production.
Pooter’s spoken thoughts are shared between the cast, but Jake Curran takes the main responsibility for the role. He captures Charles’ curious mix of charm, pomposity and self-importance, and his assurance is the glue that binds the production. George Fouracres and Geordie Wright share the remaining roles, including bearded maid Sarah, impudent tradesmen and Pooter’s friends Cummings and Gowing.
Mary Franklin’s adaptation is faithful to the book, and there’s clearly a great deal of fondness and respect for the Diary. She’s a talented and ambitious director too, with a strong company. But on this occasion, they may all be trying a bit too hard.
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN
Tickets kingsheadtheatre.com and 0207 478 0160
Until Saturday 14th February 2015, 7pm
Saturday 14th February matinee, 3pm
No performances on Sundays