Sunday, 5 November 2017

Review The Diary Of A Nobody

The Diary Of A Nobody
Based On The Novel
By George Grossmith and Weedon Grossmith
Adapted For The Stage By Mary Franklin

Keeping Up Appearances

There's a queer old cove and his family who've moved into The Laurels in Holloway. We know we're in the second half of the nineteenth century and we daresay he's good-natured enough.

But he's decidedly middle-class, of the lower grade, rather than a blueblood or an easy-going Bohemian.

And to top it all, he's decided to keep a diary, first in Punch magazine and then published as a book, as if he were a toff of a politician or an imperial adventurer or some such thing!

Of course he may be some kind of relation to "J" of Three Men In A Boat fame. His descendants possibly also include Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones, and a late twentieth century factional column about a beleaguered father, Hunter Davies, Father's Day, in Punch again and also turned into a book.

Lor', he may even be a distant cousin of Mrs Hyacinth Bucket from a distinctly low form of entertainment, the situation comedy. And, although noone could ever accuse us of being patronizing, he-may-even-have-voted-for-----Brexit! Thank goodness his wife doesn't have the vote!

Yes, it's The Diary of A Nobody in an all-male production at the King's Head with Jake Curran as the upwardly mobile head clerk Charles Pooter. He who takes the train everyday to the City and then back to the brick suburb specially built to be rented to employees such as him.

He also has Jordan Mallory-Skinner as his charming if somewhat repressed wife Carrie, who laughs (mostly) at his terrible schoolboy Victorian Christmas cracker jokes and whose family is possibly of a tad better stock than the Pooters,

Hence Mr Pooter finds himself a little disconcerted with his exhausting, ne'er-do-well, scapegoat but strangely resilient son. The latter announces that he's been "chucked out" of a banking job and is henceforth adopting his mother's family name of Lupin rather than keeping the name William, the name of a paternal relative.

Lupin, otherwise known as thespian Loz Keystone, also has a propensity to propose marriage to rather unsuitable young(ish) ladies with - speak softly lest the neighbours hear! - theatrical connections.

Indeed, maybe a theatrical parent has been just a little too generous with his or her favours, for, along with live-in maid Sarah and several uppity tradesmen, the ladies all bear a distinct resemblance to actor Geordie Wright.

It's a fun evening, with a surprisingly contemporary resonance in our uncertain times, which maybe goes on slightly too long.

Mind you, that tallies with the original episodic structure of the original text by Gilbert & Sullivan actor George Grossmith with his brother Weedon sticking to atmospheric illustrations.

The Diary first appeared as a serialization in Punch which tickled the late Victorian reader while reflecting comically the anxieties of a newly educated generation with a mixture of almost-cruelty and affection.

Adapted by director Mary Franklin, the show is held together by Curran's Pooter, with blond-red hair and beard,  whom it is easy to take for granted.

He's an almost delicate presence, even during his clumsy faux pas, and the most disciplined actor in the cast. It is he who keeps the show on track as a comical play when it threatens to turn into an alternative comedy sketch show.

Designer Christopher Hone adapts the book's original pen-and-ink illustrations, keeping a balance between the realms of the imagination and comic flesh-and-blood stage reality.   Meanwhile parlour music on piano and guitar completes the ambience.

There's also a goodly amount about entertainment in The Diary Of A Nobody and maybe there is a subtext about the theatrical life in the pretensions of the Pooters and their reliance, while trying to retain their dignity, on tradesmen.

But ultimately this was a mocking column, dashed off each week for a magazine as a light-hearted divertissement.

It happens that a wish-fufilment bricks-and-mortar happy ending is just as pertinent, if not more so, in current times. Anyway, for  a spirited production with just the occasional dip in energy, it's an amber/green light.  

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