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The Diary of a Nobody: enjoyable slice of Victorian fun

A bit of history for some of our younger readers now. Back in the good old days – when a cloud was something fluffy in the sky, a mobile phone was the one on the kitchen wall with an extremely long flex so you could talk in the hallway and a blog was just a spelling mistake – if you wanted to keep a record of everything you did over the course of time, you would have to sit down with a book and a pen and write your thoughts down. I know, it all sounds a bit primitive but if it hadn’t been done this way, nobody today would have heard of Samuel Pepys, Anne Frank or Virginia Woolf. A diary is a window into the past that can provide an insight into a time gone by. Take, for example, The Diary of a Nobody which is back at The King’s Head Theatre.

The Diary of a Nobody
The Diary of a Nobody

On the 3rd April 1888, City of London Clerk Charles Pooter (Jake Curran) and his wife Caroline (Jordan Mallory-Skinner) move into their new home in Holloway. Along with them is their servant, Sarah (Geordie Wright) and together the three of them settle down a normal, respectable middle-class Victorian life, all documented by Charles in his diary. The Pooter’s are not the most sociable of people but they have friends who pop in now and again, they have a home that needs some work doing to it, they interact with tradesmen and other people of the area and they have a son William ‘call me Lupin’ (Loz Keystone) who is a successful bank clerk in Oldham. Over the next 15 months or so, Charles documents the ups and downs of domestic life. The highs – such as being invited to attend a ball at the mansion house – and the lows – such as not knowing when to stop with the red paint. Just a regular story of Victorian town-folk.

I’ve never got around to reading Diary of a Nobody but it seems to be one of those books I’m really familiar with. The main thing I remember is the awful puns – especially the one about Gowing and Cummings – which would shame a writer of Christmas cracker jokes. So this production is a welcome insight into the book. The set – designed by Christopher Hone – is a standard Victorian parlour but with white walls and the various, windows, fireplace, hangings, etc line drawn like an old-line drawing you would find in a book. The costumes themselves are predominately white, with black edgings and the elements combined create a sort of old black and white movie feel, giving the production a nice period look that adds to the very Victorian English of the text.

In The Diary of a Nobody, there are a total of 45 characters, both male and female. A lot of actors you may think. Well, obviously some of the actors double up. In fact, three of the actors perform 44 of the roles between them. No mean feat but one they carry off with aplomb. There are laughs aplenty in this show, both in the text and in the staging by Director Mary Franklin. And the cast really play them up for all they are worth – the start of the play within a play scene was one of the funniest. The cast are obviously enjoying themselves up there and, there were a couple of occasions when it looked as if a case of corpsing was about to break out. Though full credit to Jake Curren whose Pooter never moved from being the stiff-necked, English gentleman throughout. I also really liked Jordan Mallory-Skinner as Carrie, managing the difficult task of remaining a chap whilst playing a weak Victorian wife with some very feminine scenes quite convincingly.

So, what didn’t I like about The Diary of a Nobody? Nothing really. The roughly two hours running time went quite fast and I was engaged with the show all the way through. It doesn’t say in the programme but whoever did the abridgement did really well, though I didn’t really understand the ending until I read a precis of the book this morning – thank you Wikipedia.

Overall, The Diary of a Nobody is a really nice rendition of an old classic. With lots of humour and some distinctly un-PC attitudes, the production is very entertaining and an enjoyable slice of Victorian fun.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

4 male actors, 45 mix gender roles, a stage full of props, a party, a brawl, a broken engagement and a lot of bad puns. This is a comedy of lovingly controlled chaos.

Evelyn Waugh called The Diary of a Nobody ‘the funniest book in the world’. First published in the 1800s, it tells the story of a self-important but tender-hearted Victorian office-worker. Mr. Pooter never loses his sense of humour as he is made to deal with the trails of everyday life – a wayward son, trouble at the office, house hold improvements gone wrong and the annoyance of catching your foot in the mat whilst trying to leave the room in silent dignity.

This cult Victorian novel is transformed into an uproarious comedy through inventive and imaginative staging. Balancing moments of wild humour against the insightful depiction of an ordinary life and happy marriage, this is a show with a surreal comic flair and a strongly beating emotional heart.

Director & Adaptor Mary Franklin
Designer Carin Nakanishi
Sound Designer Jordan Mallory-Skinner

The Diary of a Nobody
3 Nov — 18 Nov 2017
Kings Head Theatre
Drama Rough Haired Pointer


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