It feels appropriate that The Diary of a Nobody should kick off the new King’s Head Theatre season in January. For how many nibs have been sharpened, fresh pages turned and inner-most thoughts committed to paper since the start of the year? And how many, begun with the best of intentions, are already gathering an unholy combination of dust and regret?
That so many are abandoned is hardly surprising, for it takes a rare blend of solipsism and dedication to commit to the task of capturing your thoughts for posterity. The jeu d’esprit of the professional raconteur is a rare talent, and even celebrated diarists of the stature of Alan Clarke or Christopher Isherwood can be heavy going if read cover to cover.
Literary triumphs recognise the average diary writer is nothing like these people; rather they prick, with considerable acuity, the pomposity of the English middle classes. In modern times we have the brilliance of Sue Townsend’s Adrian Mole, whose sense of his own self-importance is drolly sent-up in his teenage obsession with Malcolm Muggeridge. The Victorians, who certainly knew a thing or two about pomposity, had one Charles Pooter of the The Laurels, Brickfield Terrace, Holloway.
The creation of George and Weedon Grossmith, Pooter is a character that grew larger than the book that contained him (a fact that would have pleased him greatly if he didn’t stop to find out why). To be ‘Pooterish’ is to have a vastly inflated sense of one’s own importance and to take oneself far too seriously. In today’s world of internet blogs, Twitter feeds and Facebook sharing, it is a word that has more relevance than ever before (and yes, Civilian Theatre recognises that ‘glass houses’ and ‘stones’ comes to mind here).
Rough Haired Pointer has taken on the difficult task of adapting the wonderful comic novel, The Diary of a Nobody – the lasting chronicle of Charles Pooter, his family, friends and servants. They do so with energetic vigour and considerable panache, as four actors take it upon themselves to play 45 characters across 100 minutes in a space with nowhere near enough room to swing a cat.