It's a rare ability to render an audience helpless with laughter and crying with emotion at the same moment. Hugh Osborneís new adaptation of the Victorian comic classic The Diary of a Nobody has this ability in spades.
Whatís more extraordinary still is that each of the four actors playing out the narrative is individually capable of the same feat. The combined effect under the direction of Gary Sefton is nothing short of sensational.
Ostensibly held together by the relentlessly suburban, proudly ordinary and implacably self-important character of Mr Pooter, this is actually a truly ensemble piece of theatre. Fortunately, the ensemble is first-rate.
As the eponymous Nobody, Robert Daws gives Pooter an utterly believable, three-dimensional humanity that renders his innate pomposity thoroughly likable. For all the misfortunes and mishaps that befall him, however self-inflicted they may be, there is always the compelling urge to reach out and give him a hug. Itís a touching, poignant and hilarious performance by a consummate master of the slightly bewildered Everyman.
With him on stage are three other actors, each of whom plays a multitude of parts with virtuosic creativity. Peter Forbes covers everything from a groin-scratching handyman to the endlessly indulgent Mrs Pooter with the lightest of touches and faultless comic timing.
Steven Blakeley plays Pooterís son Lupin with all the vigour and energy of youth, and must be losing pounds in his frenetic portrayals of a host of other brilliantly drawn characters. And William Oxborrow takes the word versatile to new heights with his multi-instrumental musical talents and a hugely impressive range of acted roles.
The whole thing is stunningly put together by director Sefton and races breathlessly through two hours of set changes, manic confusion and some not inconsiderable vocal talents. With the delightfully appropriate Royal Theatre as its backdrop, this Diary is beautifully staged (Rhys Jarman), impeccably lit (Richard Godin) and meticulously choreographed (Alexandra Worrall). Without reservation, it deserves the standing ovation it receives.