Howard Colyer’s adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s 1930s short story Diary Of A Madman takes place in the quirky new Omnibus theatre space in Clapham’s old library. The venue has a pleasant vibe and feels like and interesting place to visit. Their mission statement is as follows;
“To create an iconic new destination for the arts in Lambeth that enriches the lives of a diverse range of local people”.
To set the scene: As in the book, this a one-man show focussing on a diary of increasingly ludicrous ramblings by the lowly clerk Poprischin. The set is notably basic – presumably due to the lack of a West End budget.
Admittedly the first half of the show is not overly exciting. Largely due to an over-reliance on recorded segments of Poprischin’s diary. This means the protagonist spends a lot of time sitting in silence, occasionally walking to a filing cabinet or scribbling something. In short, it’s pretty static. Recordings aside, the sound design is suitably unsettling. Although the repeated ‘mental hospital intercom’ announcements seemed a little heavy-handed.
However, the production shifts up a gear in the second half, which is far more entertaining – Poprischin’s behaviour becomes outlandish and dynamic; he leaps around the stage, delivers some very amusing lines and strips down to his pants. I enjoyed the absurdity of the semi-naked hero wrapped in a bed-sheet cloak with a paper crown.
The play also closes on a surprisingly sad note, I found myself feeling genuinely sorry for the institutionalised Poprischin.
David Bromley is clearly a good actor, and has the chance to demonstrate this during the latter scenes.
Diary Of A Madman is entertaining, funny and easily accessible as it won’t cost you a king’s ransom. But my overall impression was less complete insanity and more Glenn’s infamous office meltdown in TV’s ‘The Thick Of It’.