Back in the late 1800s, everyone who was anyone, from Queen Victoria herself, down to the humblest bank clerk, wanted to document their daily lives for posterity. Of course, this was before the days of Twitter, online blogs, YouTube VLogs etc, so people had to go out and buy strange things called books and pens to record everything with. Luckily some of these diaries, as they were called back then, survived the ravages of time, and have been passed on to future generations by being turned into wonderful plays such “The Diary of a Nobody” running at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington.
Of course, to quote the poet, “No man is an island entire of itself” and even an insignificant clerk like Charles Pooter (Jake Curran) the ‘Nobody’ of the title, interacts with others and in this extract from his diary covering the period 2nd April 1888 just after he and his lovely wife Carrie (Jordon Mallory-Skinner) moved into their new house, until the 23rd May 1889 when the happiness with life is unbound in the Pooter household, he actually meets 43 other people. Quite a crowd for a pub theatre you might think, but not when all 45 characters are played by just 4 actors (Jake, Jordon, George Fouracres & Geordie Wright). Charles and Carrie have an eventful year thanks to some malarkey from their son William/Lupin, Sarah, the worst maid on the planet, the intervention of the Lord Mayor of London and, of course the visits of Mr Pooter’s best friends Cummings and Gowing.
Time for some plain speaking – as Mr Pooter would think but, being a gentleman, very rarely say. This is one of the funniest and most enjoyable plays I have seen in a long time. Adapted and directed by Mary Franklin, who has taken the original comic novel by George and Weedon Grossmith, and turned it into a superb piece of theatre. The simple set – black and white line drawings of a Victorian house works really well with the predominantly monochrome costumes of the cast. But, it is the four actors that really make this such an amazing show.
Changing character at the drop of a hat, or even a fake moustache, they are so skilled that at no point did I lose the thread as to who was interacting with whom. Jordon Mallory-Skinner should be mentioned for his amazing ability to play Carrie, who transformed from a model of a meek Victorian wife to a screaming harridan able to kill with a glance as she tried to keep her house running in the midst of her husband’s crazy schemes – word of advice, enamel paint and baths should never be put together. However, all four actors were just amazing and played their many and varied roles with total commitment and every fibre of their bodies. Impeccable comic timing kept the audience on their toes, not knowing where the next reason to, as the kids say today, LOL was going to come from. Visual gags abounded and the script contained some of the worst (let’s be honest best) ‘dad’ jokes possible.
Pooter: You’re not going to complain of the smell of paint again?
Gowing: No, not this time; but I’ll tell you what, I distinctly smell dry rot.
Pooter: You’re talking a lot of dry rot yourself.
Carrie and Pooter roar with laughter
I think you get the picture!
“The Diary of a Nobody” is the first show in the King’s Head 2015 season and it has to be said that they have really started in spectacular style. A truly awesome first-rate show, full of wonderful characters, brilliant actors and laughter aplenty.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Diary of a Nobody is a much-loved and profoundly tender novel. It originated in Punch magazine in 1888–89 and as a book in 1892. The Diary records the daily events in the life of Pooter and his family and friends over a period of 15 months. Their daily routines were instantly recognised by contemporary readers and are still very familiar to us today.
Rough Haired Pointer have been described as one of the most inventive and entertaining new theatre companies out there (Exeunt). Past work includes; Joe Orton’s Fred & Madge (The Hope Theatre), The Boy Who Cried (The Hope and Tabard theatres) and The Young Visiters (The Hen & Chickens). Their work combines a tumbledown charm with visual originality and headlong action. For this production, Rough Haired Pointer will pay all of its actors the London living wage – this is in line with the King’s Head Theatre agreement with the performers’ union Equity.
Director/Adaptor Mary Franklin
Original Designer Carin Nakanishi
Revival Designer Christopher Hone
Lighting Designer Seth Rook Williams
Cast: Jake Curran, George Fouracres, Jordan Mallory Skinner, Geordie Wright
The Diary of a Nobody
Performance Dates Tuesday 20th January – Saturday 14th February 2015, 7pm
Saturday 14th February matinee, 3pm
No performances on Sundays
Running time 90 minutes
King’s Head Theatre, 115 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 1QN
Box Office Tickets are available online and 0207 478 0160 from £19.50 (concessions £15).
Sunday 25th January 2015