The Diary of Thomas Pooler

Sun 16th – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Alannah Jones

at 02:03 on 23rd Aug 2015

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Written and performed by Lewis Dunn, The Diary of Thomas Pooler is a sad, sweet little play about one man’s misplaced aspirations; the dramatic irony of his ambition to become a stand-up comedian - and the spectator’s comprehension that this will never happen, as poor Thomas happens to be singularly unfunny. The monologue might also be referred to as a character study of a middle-aged man longing to achieve recognition, bored of domesticity, feeling that he has “lost” his wife of 20 years somewhere along the line.

Dunn’s performance certainly evokes more pathos than humour; the jokes that invariably fall flat only adding to the former. Thomas Pooler casts a pitiably un-self-aware figure, in a crumpled work suit and tie, sniggering away at his own jokes and observations, including such tragically unfunny observations as “wouldn’t it be funny if the bus had square wheels?”. Dunn’s script is a little heavy-handed in moments such as these, in that the jokes are almost too bad for anybody, ever, to believe they could make a career out of them.

The true pathos and the most empathetic side to the play is to be found in the reflection of ourselves in Thomas. He wants to make people laugh in order to feel accepted and valued, an undeniable yearning instrumental to the human condition. Thomas’ particular desire to feel accepted is perhaps a result of his stale relationship with ‘Mrs Pooler’.

Dunn’s northern accent and direct delivery are reminiscent of Alan Bennett’s ‘Talking Heads’, as is the domestic tragi-comedy genre of the piece. There are some really quite poignant and evocative lines in there; Dunn is a sensitive and realistic playwright, however as a performer he seemed unsuited to the role, taking a rather heavy-handed approach to the delicacy of his own script, which I think is the crux of the monologue’s failure to impress. That is not to say that this piece is not worth seeing; as a free fringe drama I am sure it is far from the bottom of the heap.

As a writer, Lewis Dunn shows promise. Had the monologue been performed by somebody with better comic timing and delivery it might have had the potential to be funnier; thus equally heightening the pathos and making Thomas an altogether more sympathetic and believable character. As it stands, however, the play seems (perhaps somewhat aptly) pervasively unfulfilling and unfulfilled.

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Michael Roderick

at 02:08 on 23rd Aug 2015

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With commendable courage, Lewis Dunn stepped out onto stage to perform his one-man act, The Diary Of Thomas Pooler (heavily inspired by Mr Pooter from ‘Diary Of A Nobody’), to an extremely small audience – two of which were reviewers. Quiet, shy and repressed, Pooler mumbles away, revealing the innermost life of his mind through the narration of his diary. We hear about cake sale after cake sale, church fetes gone haywire, and problems with co-workers at the local bureaucracy.

Clearly, with an audience of such small size, the show wasn’t able to live up to its potential. However, neither the acting nor the writing inspired much belief in such a potential. The script, for all its occasional charm, was just too dull to capture my interest, and whilst the character himself is doltishly likeable, his words are too stunted and disjointed to curry much sympathy.

Pooler secretly yearns to attain success as a stand-up comic, though his jokes are utterly insipid little titbits of pseudo-punning. Whilst Dunn obviously wants us to laugh at his absurd ambitions, it is hard to do so when the bad jokes are themselves (often) badly told. Dunn was simply too quiet and faltering, lacking the necessary oomph and stage-presence required of a single-man act, to inspire an ironic derision.

Dunn tries hard to render his character as sympathetic as possible, but in so doing makes some fairly poor narrative choices. An ill-judged denouement in which we learn the extent of Pooler’s unhappiness and the lost feelings he has for his wife, Ruby, fail to achieve to desired effect, principally because it seems to come out from nowhere. Ruby’s appearance in the flesh and the couple’s reconciliation is unexpected and unmoving. Similarly, his dreadful stint as a stand-up comic comes and goes in a flash, meaning that the main expectation of the narrative, indeed the whole conclusion, is bathetically lost.

The piece isn’t without redeeming features, though. Dunn himself is eminently likeable, and so is his character. Being likeable, though, is different from being sympathetic: one can find a caricature likeable, but it’s difficult to have much sympathy with it. The script has, at times, a kind of silly charm. It is just a shame that neither the acting nor the writing quite made the piece work.

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