Originally a serial in Punch in 1888 and then a book in 1892, The Diary of a Nobody (by George and Weedon Grossmith) pokes fun at a late Victorian trend of people publishing their diaries. In it, Charles Pooter doesn’t see– just because he is not a ‘somebody’ – why he should not keep a diary for publication too: hence the title. So, a completely ordinary, middle-class clerk records the minutiae of his everyday life for public consumption. Heaven forbid anyone would do anything similar in modern times!
In this stage adaptation, writer Keith Waterhouse captures the essence and gentle humour of the novel, with the added benefit of giving Mrs Carrie Pooter (Miranda Foster) the opportunity to put her views down in her own diary. Of course, they don’t accord with those of her husband, Charles (Edward Baker–Duly).
Baker-Duly is the personification of the self-important and eccentric Charles Pooter. He descends into fits of laughter at his own cringe worthy puns, but ignores Carrie’s jokes; he has a fondness for champagne which leads to various public humiliations; he has some strange ideas for home improvements, whilst totally disregarding the things that actually need doing, and seems to be taken advantage of on a regular basis by friends and tradesmen. Despite all this, the character is an eternal optimist, always making the best of things.
Foster is an excellent Carrie Pooter, in turns exasperated, embarrassed and sometimes positively mortified by the behaviour of her husband, who completely mis-reads her reactions. She also conveys an underlying snobbery, having a reliance on Lady Cartmell’s magazines giving advice for the ‘bijou household’.
There were quite a few mishaps on the night; for example props not behaving themselves, timings being a bit off and the cast getting a little tongue-twisted. Plus, a particular mistake meant we were treated to one of the scenes twice. It was very confusing and resulted in a sheepish and apologetic final bow. However, none of these really mattered. They were all amusing and complemented the already rather haphazard Pooter existence without interfering at all with the overall enjoyment of the show.
There are several other characters in the story (the Pooters’ son Lupin, the domestic staff, the neighbours) who are impersonated to good effect by Charles and Carrie. Sound and lighting are always good at Jermyn Street and this was no exception; set and costume also. The gentle humour and constant stream of laughter and giggles throughout made for a very enjoyable and relaxing evening’s entertainment. I still keep thinking of some of the lines and scenes and start laughing to myself even now.
Written by: Keith Waterhouse
Directed by: Gabriella Bird
Artistic Director and Executive Producer: Tom Littler
Mr and Mrs Nobody is playing as part of Jermyn Street Theatre’s Footprints Festival, and is on until 31 July. Check website for further details and booking.