New staging of Diary of a Nobody relates satire that preceeded Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones and Peep Show
PUBLISHED: 06:02 31 July 2014
Before Adrian Mole or Bridget Jones there was Charles Pooter, the fictitious star of The Diary of a Nobody, by George and Weedon Grossmith. This average city clerk was in many ways a voice that transformed modern comedy: the first example of a satirised diarist who could find accidental humour in everyday life.
Criticised upon its 1892 release for its “smut” and “lack of high art”, time has nonetheless seen the Victorian story develop cult status and now, 24-year-old Mary Franklin is bringing an adaptation to the King’s Head Theatre, Islington.
“It’s a particular brand of comedy that draws on humanity and everyday life,” the young director says. “It’s incredibly modern.
“There’s a scene where the son, Lupin, is feeling hungover and his parents are desperately trying to get him to come and have lunch with them and he’s giving all these excuses as to why he can’t. One of the actors said they just assumed this was written in about 1940, as it does feel very fresh.”
Drawing from the first year-and-a-half of the book’s plot, Franklin’s show sees Poole and his family move from Putney to Holloway as he disastrously attempts to raise his profile in middle-class society. Despite featuring more than 45 characters, the show ambitiously has four actors playing them all.
Although Franklin didn’t know the book initially, she was encouraged to stage it by those who attended her previous Victorian production, The Young Visitors.
Once she decided upon the idea, she suddenly found an underground nation of fans.
“It seems to be a secret favourite of everyone. A lot of comedy comes from The Diary of a Nobody: Peep Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, My Family, Outnumbered – all these TV shows about family life.
“It’s essentially an image of a man who’s content in his own life, who loves his wife, loves his job and loves his home, which is quite rare for a story.
“He’s aspirational, but what he wants is very small; he doesn’t want his life to change, he likes that security.”
The artistic director of theatre group Rough Haired Pointer and resident director of the Hope Theatre, Franklin started her career last year at the King’s Head when she joined their trainee director scheme.
For her, “getting to know a building was really important” and she is thrilled to be returning after seeing Diary of a Nobody transferred from The White Bear theatre in Kennington.
“It’s a great trainee director scheme actually because you’re just thrown in the deep end and suddenly find yourself learning huge amounts about how to work in the theatre,” she says.
“And yes, I left and seem to have come straight back to it.”
Diary of a Nobody runs at the King’s Head Theatre until August 24. Tickets are priced £15-£25. For more details visit kingsheadtheatre.com.
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