10 SEPTEMBER 1954, Page 12

THEATRE The Diary of a Nobody. By George and Weedon

Grossmith. (Arts.) ADAPTING any well-known book to the stage is always a daring venture. When it is a book whose whole effect depends on a deadpan absence of drama, the probability of failure is greatly increased. It is, therefore, a tribute to Basil Dean and Richard Blake that, in adapting The Diary of a Nobody for the stage, they have been able to produce a fair- to-middling play. Of course, it moves slowly : when transferred to the stage; the rhythms of Mr. Pooter's life can hardly be called gripping, and to hold the audience the producer has to rely largely on period stuff which is a little difficult for those of us who do not shriek with laughter every time the word 'antimacassar' is pronounced. How- ever, it is only fair to say that many people do find the background of 'The Laurels,' Brickfield Terrace, London, N, automatically funny, and for these this production provides plenty of Victorian drollery. It is very well done: George Benson makes a rather too impressive Mr. Pooter, but manages the difficult task of talking to himself or his wife as though he were addressing an audience .with considerable conviction (the soliloquy seems to be undergoing a minor resurrection these days), while Dulcie Gray, if not suffi- ciently in place or period, does suggest rather pleasantly maternal or connubial anxiety every time one of the minor—very, very minor—domestic catastrophes with which the play is littered occurs. Leslie Phillips also makes a good Lupin—'fast,' but fundamentally naive and with a heart of' gold. Indeed, it is a precondition of this kind of play that everybody concerned should have a heart of gold: only in the case of Mr. Pooter's employer, Mr. Perkupp, do we actually hear the metal chinking. For this reason ad evening spent at the Arts tends to be at least soothing, if soporific. As I said, it is very well done: the only question remaining is whether it is worth