Mr and Mrs Nobody
Susan Elkin | 08 Jul 2021 16:46pm
Keith Waterhouse’s 1983 play is based on the hilarious, quintessentially English Diary of a Nobody (1892) by George and Weedon Grossmith of G&S fame. The play has quite a track record although I’d not seen it before,
The novel, which I’ve read more than once over the years, gives us the thoughts of Charles Pooter, a pompous lower middle class man, humourlessly blind to what the people around him are actually thinking and doing. Waterhouse’s take on it shares the diary narrative with his long suffering wife, Carrie. And in the hands of director Gabriella Bird and actors Miranda Foster and Edward Baker-Duly, it becomes a very funny two hander with some witty doubling to represent other characters as required.
Foster gives us a stressed character trying hard to tolerate and love her impossibly tiresome husband who is in thrall to a city boss who clearly sees Pooter’s talents as middling like everything else about him. She grits her teeth, smiles gamely, soldiers on despite the noisy, dirty trains at the bottom of the garden and her rendering of a badly song at a party is a moment to treasure in the Florence Foster Jenkins tradition.
Baker-Duly, who has a wolfish Hugh Grant look about him at times, is plausibly ridiculous as Pooter and strong as Lupin, their useless foppish son and several other characters distinguished by a brief change of voice and/or body language. These two actors, moreover, work together with quickfire slickness most of the time.
I was, however, puzzled by the quite long section of Act 1 dialogue which is repeated (presumably deliberately?) in the second half. Whatever point Waterhouse or the director is trying to make it falls flat here. And maybe this is difficult dialogue to manage anyway – at one point on press night they needed a prompt which is unusual these days.
Nonetheless it’s an evening full of laughter and so clean and sparky that you really could take your great aunt if she happened to up from the country.