From the short story by Nikolai Gogol

1830s Russia. Poprishchin is in his 40’s – a low ranking civil servant for the Government, struggling to make his mark on life, but one day he makes an amazing discovery. Could he really be the next King of Spain?

Driven insane by government bureaucracy and hierarchy, Gogol’s dark comedy exposes one man’s reality spiralling deeper into a surreal fantasy world. Considered by many to be Gogol’s best work, Diary of a Madman is set in St Petersberg, among the petty repressed civil Service of Tsarist Russia. Directed by Sinead Rushe (Olivier Award nominee) this one man show, performed by Robert Bowman (Sherman Cymru, Bristol Old Vic, RSC) is a timeless piece that explores the human condition when it comes face to face with its own mortality.

Director: Sinead Rushe
Actor: Robert Bowman
Composer: Roland Melia
Designer: Sarah Beaton
Lighting Designer: Katy Morrison

Diary of a Madman has been a work in progress for the last 6 years. It was originally produced at Chapter Arts Centre in September 2011 and Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive of Arts Council Wales mentioned it as one of the highlights of 2011.

We worked on the piece in 2012 at Sherman Cymru and then toured it in 2013 to venues in Wales, finishing with a run in Edinburgh at Venue 13. Robert was later awarded the Welsh Theatre Critics Best Actor in an English Language Production Award for 2014 and we toured it to Armenia in October of that year as part of their theatre festival in Yerevan. Early in 2015, with the help of a Wales International Grant, Robert went to North Carolina to work with Professor Denise Gabriel at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and perform for three nights at Triad Stage (Cabaret Space).

Also in 2015, it was awarded a Wales in Edinburgh Award from Arts Council Wales and was part of the British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2015. It also toured to Neath Little Theatre (30th of July 2015), Pontardawe Arts Centre (31st of July 2015) and Chapter Arts Centre(4th and 5th of August 2015) before performing at Zoo Venues (Aviary) in Edinburgh – 7th to the 30th of August 2015.

2016 saw Diary of a Madman tour to Mannheim, Germany, Birmingham and Blackwood Miner’s Institute.

In November-December 2017, Living Pictures Productions toured India with Diary of a Madman and Timon of Athens. The venues included Lit Live Festival, Mumbai; Ranga Shankara, Bengalaru; Odd Bird Theatre, New Delhi; British Council, New Delhi; and Centre Stage Festival, Kolhata.

More recently we have been doing some work with Sarah Victoria from PEM and will be looking to do more work with her on this project in the future.

Diary of a Madman

What they’ve been saying about the show:

“In this new adaptation by Living Pictures Productions, Robert Bowman delivers a riveting performance as Poprishchin which rarely pauses for breath. Though the character complains that theatre critics only look to tear things to pieces, Bowman himself should have nothing to fear. Bowman’s development of his character is sensitively portrayed and makes his ultimate confusion deeply affecting. A deeply thought-provoking show.”
   – Joshua Clarke for Broadway Baby *****

“Living Pictures’ adaptation of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman is a small-scale one-man-show that has toured studio theatres across Wales and beyond, yet in terms of its emotional heft and compelling storytelling it is a major theatrical event. Robert Bowman deservedly won the Best Actor in an English Language Production prize at the 2014 Wales Theatre Critics’ Awards for his riveting portrayal of Poprishchin – a low-ranking civil servant whose descent into madness is chronicled in a series of blackly-comic diary entries. The production returned to Chapter for previews this August, before heading off to Edinburgh, where it will be part of a British Council showcase of Welsh theatrical talent. With actor and role having spent several years together, Bowman’s chilling portrait of psychological decay has acquired an even greater degree of detail and spontaneity.”
   – Phil Morris, Wales Arts Review *****

“To hold sway over the minds of an audience for an hour with a text so fluid, so rich in its substance is always to be applauded. For Robert Bowman though it seems to go further, the fall from state of grace of a lowly clerk to the lofty insane heights imagined as the King of Spain to which Poprishchin finds himself is so well handled that the person in the stalls would not be admonished for wondering whether insanity is infectious, as contagious as a case of Chicken Pox, or if indeed it is them who is indeed mad. Diary of a Madman is a terrific adaptation, one that really captures the point of the Edinburgh Fringe Theatre.”
   – Ian D Hall, Liverpool Sound and Vision *****

“The production design is simple but beautiful. The packing crates, and scant piles of books and newspapers establish the reluctant, slovenly poverty of the character and situation well, while the strong, stark lighting states, and the tortured strings and electronic distortion of the score map the degenerating tone. A smart, dark, genuinely intense, disturbing and acidly funny satire, with an outstanding central performance.”
   – Mark Bolsover, Edinburgh Spotlight *****

“Both utterly tragic and black dog- funny, this one-man monologue is ferociously portrayed, with a torrent of stream-of-consciousness language, and all punctuated by a fine brooding score by Roland Melia.”
   – Lorna Irvine, The List Edinburgh 2015 *****

“Robert Bowman perfectly encapsulates a range of emotions as we watch him unravel before our eyes and head deeper and deeper into a fantasy world.”
   – Karen Price, Western Mail

“Robert Bowman’s extraordinary portrayal of the eponymous narrator of Gogol’s Diary of a Madman at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff stood out. Here was acting of raw power and intensity and will live long in my memory.”
   – Nick Capaldi, Chief Executive Arts Council for Wales

“Robert Bowman’s #madman @ShermanCymru is a mega masterclass on how to live your character’s life on stage; beautiful simple staging and effects. Bowman’s honesty, & painful dark journey into his diary of a #madman is a 70min theatrical experience, not to be missed. stunning simplicity.”
   – Y Cymro, Paul Griffiths, May 2013

“Bowman’s performance reached out and touched us with every inch of his largeness. He wasn’t just showing us something he’d created in rehearsal; we were witnessing him creating.”
   – Leslie Herman Jones, 3rd Age Critic, National Theatre of Wales Community

“For 80 minutes or so, Robert Bowman performs a master-class, displaying every facet of character acting & sustains the illusion of reality in his role.”
   – Arthur Duncan, Remote Goat 2013 *****

“Lingering on uncomfortable moments with masterful intensity, he’s unafraid to look you in the eye… those hungry to be confronted with an excellently curious character will be captivated.”
   – Three Weeks Edinburgh 2013 ****

“Living Pictures have proved that all you need to make great theatre is an intriguing story, a team with great attention to detail and one actor with awe-inspiring charisma.”
   – Chelsey Gillard, Young Critics June 2013


Please contact Living Pictures productions for further information or if you’d like to book the show.


Thanks to the Arts Council of Wales, Wales Arts International and the British Council for supporting this show and taking it on this amazing journey.


Arts Council of Wales