With such a kooky, cartoony, hand-illustrated set design and costume choice; a rather marvellous quartet of adroit actors performing in a vast number of hilariously eccentric and goofy roles; and the accompaniment of such joyfully simple and heart-warmingly jolly sound design, it would be forgiveable for you to think when watching The Diary of a Nobody that director Mary Franklin had placed you amongst the pages of Punch magazine itself, in all its weird and wacky gloriousness.
Rough Haired Pointer’s new season starter is an adaptation of the 1888 English comic novel written by brothers George and Weedon Grossmith, and follows the whimsically vainglorious diary entries of pompous yet lovable Pooter (Jake Curran). We follow the chirpy London clerk over a fifteen month period as he goes through his day-to-day activities, along with tofty, crabby wife Carrie (Jordan Mallory-Skinner), hilariously outlandish son Lupin (George Fouracres) and 25 other equally idiosyncratic and nutty characters, multi-rolled heartily and over-the-top by four very gifted actors. With each taking turns at Pooter’s narration, the performance goes through the diary entries like a rocket: one minute Geordie Wright is a skittish and tuneless fat woman, and the next a crazy old seer. Watch closely or you might miss it!
There is something delightfully engrossing about the quintessentially English comedy motif of mocking oneself profusely, and this production nails that down to a tee. Whether it’s Pooter being shot in the face with powder in order to simulate steam coming from a 2D cardboard bath tub, or Fouracres desperately trying not to giggle whilst pretending to be a formal photograph of a deceased relative, the show maintains its comedic, self-aware and meta nature throughout. From a bonnet-clad Wright falling through and breaking a fake piano, to Pooter’s timeless ‘Dad jokes’ and the satirizing of eighteenth century sensibilities, the performance is both high-brow and low-brow, using comedy from across the board. Be it dead-pan or slapstick, droll or farce, the purposeful rough-around-the-edges touch gives it the vibe that the show is simply a very clever creation of a few friends meeting up to just have some fun together. This in turn awards the play an extra dose of warmth that the audience gets to be part of – and really does become a part of, seeing that throughout the performance the cast have a tendency to break the fourth wall like the Kool-aid man (beware, first row.)
Highly uproarious, incredible witty, thoroughly enjoyable and utterly charming, Rough Haired Pointers certainly deliver on the opening of what is sure to be a wholly enjoyable season.
The Diary of a Nobody is playing at the King’s Head Theatre until 14 February. For tickets and more information, see the King’s Head Theatre website.