Something For Everybody In The Diary Of A Nobody
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Mr Pooter may not be the most esteemed London diarist. But for those who've read George Grossmith's novel, the fictional diary entries of the bumbling social-climber serialised by Punch in 1888, there's still a reservoir of goodwill. Pooter is a classic comic archetype who bears more than a passing resemblance to Basil Fawlty, David Brent or Alan Partridge — a man who aspires to the next rung on the bottom of the social ladder, but whose basic decency saves him from the after-taste of some of the punch-down, mocking humour inflicted upon him.
This handsome production from Rough Haired Pointer has much to recommend it. First mention must go to the set designer Carin Nakanishi, who has created a black and white cardboard cartoon that is an especial hat-tip to Weedon Grossmith's famous illustrations and seems able to draw the audience into the pages of the original stories.
The show is also well-rehearsed, the comedic timing spot-on and the rapport between the actors makes for a jolly atmosphere in the intimate space of Islington's King's Head pub theatre. There's more than a hint of the Cambridge Footlights (one of the cast is a former member) and it's possible to imagine any one of the four young actors shaking off their gawkiness further down their careers in Hugh Laurie style.
Then there's 24 year old director Mary Franklin, who has skilfully managed to ensure there's plenty of anarchic fun while also maintaining control and pacing that just about keeps the show from slipping into chaos. It's also her adaptation and if there's a criticism it's only that she is faithful to a flaw.
Perhaps a few of the many characters could have been sidelined in favour of more focus on Mr Pooter's son, Lupin. He throws his father's ordered, house-proud world into chaos and something of a more structured plot may have been mapped out from there.
Nonetheless, the family dynamic does capture more than just the episodic vignettes of the original. For fans of the novel in particular, this is a most touching adaptation.
The Diary Of A Nobody runs at the Kings Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington until 14 February. Tickets cost £19.50 (or £18/£15 for concessions and £10 for under-26s).
Last Updated 24 January 2015