Pros: Uproariously funny with crackling chemistry to rival the Pythons.
Cons: It’s perhaps a little too long to run without an interval, but I wasn’t at all bored.
There’s no automatic association between Victorian novels and being doubled over with laughter, but this was my experience at the opening night of The Diary of a Nobody at the King’s Head pub theatre in Islington. ‘I fail to see, because I do not happen to be a Somebody, why my diary should not be interesting’ states Charles Pooter (of the Laurels, Brickfield Terrace, Holloway) at the start of the show and I have to say as the play finishes, I am inclined to agree. We are drawn into the world of socially ambitious Charles Pooter and his wife Carrie who share their home with hapless servant Sarah and oftentimes with their disappointing son Willie (or Lupin as he’d rather be called).
Beyond the four main roles, the company (George Fouracres, Jake Curran, Jordan Mallory-Skinner and Geordie Wright) multi-role throughout with only Curran sticking with the protagonist. The cast slip ably between various roles, imbuing each with individuality, warmth and humour.
What makes the show special, and where many of the laughs come from, is the self-conscious style of the piece, with various references made to the fact that they are only performers in Pooter’s dramatisation of his diary. Actors force laughs after Pooter notes that the joke he made was well received, feign sleep when they’d rather not participate in a charade, operate a series of special effects and wear accessories that are more shabby than chic – all to the effect of absolute hilarity for the audience. This aesthetic comes to a brilliant apex when Charles and Carrie visit the King’s Head for a disappointing night of theatre, even lampooning the speech given by the artistic director at the beginning of the evening. The scene is done so well that I quickly forgave the slightly cringeworthy opening.
The cast are able to pull off this caper at a manic pace thanks to a well-worked chemistry that spits and crackles like a lively fire. Mary Franklin’s direction is so neat that the cogs whir and click into place without missing a beat. The design is also interesting, using a smart stylised black and white aesthetic for the Pooter’s living room set as well as the costumes. This allows the addition of a hat or dress tail to stand out, so that we can easily spot a change of character.
Opening the 2015 season and announcing a change of focus from opera to theatre at the King’s Head, The Diary of a Nobody is an absolute triumph and a fine advertisement for the upcoming fare. If you enjoyed the stage adaptation of The 39 Steps, you’ll love this, and you’ll also get the added benefit of feeling extremely virtuous for supporting London’s oldest pub theatre and one of the few fringe sites that supports Equity wages for actors. It’s a win-win and you’ll kick yourself if you miss it.
Authors: George and Weedon Grossmith
Adaptation: Mary Franklin
Director: Mary Franklin
Producer: Olivia Amory for Rough Haired Pointer
Designer: Christopher Hone
Box Office: 020 7478 0160
Booking Link: http://www.kingsheadtheatre.com/main.html
Booking Until: 14 February 2015