Diary of a Madman

The fevered delusions of a man in love make for compelling theatre in this one-man show.

Well before Ozzy Osbourne used it as an album title, Russian writer Gogol wrote a short story on a clerk’s descent into abject humiliation.

And it’s quite a plunge we witness. So though it sounds dark and forbidding it’s performed so expertly that you’re never overwhelmed by the character’s despair.

It’s superbly acted by Robert Bowman who manages to draw us in to the life of a self-important St Petersburg bureaucrat whose chief role seems to be the sharpening of pencils for a bigwig.

He falls for the bigwig’s daughter many years younger than him. A man in love is barely rational and one second he’s howling like a dog on heat, then softly speaking of the raptures of love he feels.

It’s a physically and emotionally demanding role for one actor to sustain, but Bowman manages to switch the contrasting tones of his emotions extraordinarily well.

He gabbles madly in the height of his obsession, slows down and then loses control as the madness deepens. It’s a highly skilled, remarkable, 70-minute performance by Bowman who barely stops talking, ranting and fantasising while careering across the set all the way through.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help feeling that Ozzy must have read the book.

Well worth seeing when it goes on a national tour next year.

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