Our Man In Havana review
 

 

wormold and segura

Charles Davies as Wormold and Michael Onslow as Segura

Our Man in Havana

Lichfield Garrick

****

One of the delights of theatre is you are never quite sure what you are going to get and every so often up pops a little comic gem which is witty, clever and marvellous entertainment.

Which is Our Man in Havana in a nutshell. Graham Green’s 1958 black comedy novel became a celebrated Carol Reed film starring Alec Guinness a year later; it even made it as an opera in the early 1960s but it was not until 2007, almost half a century later that Clive Francis adapted it for the stage and what a treat that has proved to be.

Set in 1950’s pre-revolution Cuba, under the oppressive rule of dictator Fulgencio Batista, Jim Wormold is an affable if not particularly effective vacuum cleaner salesman whose wife has run off with an American leaving him to bring up a 16 year old daughter, Milly, whose expensive tastes, allied to his limited success as a salesman, leaves him progressively more broke.

The cavalry, financially at any rate, arrive of the shape of elegantly attired, brolly carrying Hawthorne of MI6 who sees in a vacuum cleaner salesman the opportunity to suck up, so to speak, to the great and good in Havana, which makes Wormold the ideal candidate to become a British spy, our man in Havana.

It is a chance to serve one’s country and all that but much more important to Wormold, a chance to clear his debts and pander to Milly’s expensive expectations.

wormold and nuns

Wormold with Michael Onslow as the head teacher and James Dinsmore as a teacher at Milly's Catholic school

Thus sets in motion a train of events which pokes fun at the Secret Service, remember Greene himself was a spy in WWII so knew of the absurdities of the espionage game from the inside, as well a some gentle micky taking of the honours system.

And it is all done quite brilliantly as we travel the island, visit Jamaica and London and meet a host of colourful characters – all with a cast of four.

The four all act as narrators, in this case proving a word is worth a thousand pictures, or a least a sentence or two saves major set changes. Tell us what's happening and where we are and we will happily go along with that.

Charles Davies is a wonderful Wormold, the least likely secret agent you could imagine. That could be a good thing in an agent . . . but not in this case. His abilities as a vacuum cleaner salesman do not fill you with confidence about his spying prowess.

Then there is Isla Carter who manages to cover about 40 years as first of all teenage Milly, then the much older head of the female section of MI6 and finally Beatrice, who provides a romantic interest for Milly’s father – which would have really had Freud scratching his head.

She also manages to be a rival vacuum saleswoman as well as a Cuban mistress to James Dinsmore’s womanising Cifuentes, one of Wormold’s merry band of well paid supposed contacts and informants.

cast

Wormold driving James Dinsmore as a stripper and Isla Carter as Beatrice in the rear with Michael Onslow as . . . headlights

Dinsmore’s main role though is as the suave elegant Hawthorne, suitably suited in crisp white shirt and tie sipping Planter’s punch by a Jamaican hotel pool as he is in the sweltering streets of Havana or cool office in London.

He is also Wormold’s dear friend, the German WWI veteran Hasselbacher, as well as a stripper – don’t ask - and part time policeman.

The stripper being a friend of the brutal; Captain Segura, played by Michael Onslow who also steps in as the section head of MI6 as well as Wormold’s loyal shop assistant, Lopez, a non-too-bright policeman and various waiters and odds and sods.

And all the changes are virtually instantaneous, often just a jacket or hat for physical definition and then a complete change of voice, demeanour and character which shows some wonderful acting ability, slipping in and out of character, literally, at the drop of a hat.

Nina Raines also deserves some praise for her setting with three arches at the rear with a couple of palm trees and then a desk and chairs that can be moved, rotated, added or taken away to represent everything else.

All very slick helping director Amanda Knott keep everything moving at a nice pace, a production you felt that had found its natural rhythm.

The technicals, lighting Derek Anderson, sound Simon Whitehorn, also added to the performance with appropriate music and lighting helping to highlight and bring to life scenes on an otherwise bare stage.

Creative Cow has built a reputation for some outstanding productions and this can only add to that. It is clever, funny, slick and sweeps you along with its infectious enthusiasm to its happy ever after conclusuion. To 28-06-17

Roger Clarke

26-06-17 

Our Man in Havana ends its current tour at Malvern Theatres 11-15 July.

Index page Lichfield Garrick Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre