OUR MAN IN HAVANA
by Graham Greene adapted by Clive Francis.
Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 22 February 2014.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 15, 22 Feb 2.30pm.
Audio-described 15 Feb 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 19 Feb.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 3 February.
Jolly good show in Hornchurch.
Thankfully, Clive Francis’s 2007 adaptation of Graham Greene’s novel about a vacuum-cleaner salesman caught up with British espionage in pre-Castro Cuba, goes beyond mere look-how-clever-we-are with our minimal resources, handling big stories – certainly in Bob Carlton’s fast-paced, detailed Hornchurch revival.
While this show makes its nod to comic staging (a two-dimensional car sweeping along the stage, a hefty Cuban prostitute played in drag, some brothel-scene insinuendos) it also captures the complexity of life as seen by a simple English soul caught up in a foreign society by the equally exotic ways of his own country’s security services.
Wormald’s response is to send British security HQ designs of supposed weapons of mass destruction (one of Francis’s few, intentional anachronisms) based on the vacuum-cleaners he knows so well. It’s a joke compounded by the mandarins recognising the similarity but still presuming the weapons exist (nobody would be that stupid in the 21st-century, of course).
Greene was well-aware both of how security services worked (with deep inefficiency and startling lack of imagination) and the uncertainties and guilt of the individual human mind. That’s something for which the short scenes are admirably fitted, and designer Norman Coates provides a perfect visual representation of the novel’s world in sets contrasting vibrant Cuban colours with the cloudier climes of red-bus London, and employing a number of moving screens.
These slide away, revealing characters sitting behind, peering, or appearing through them in a world where there’s always an official, or other, sinister presence to observe what the innocent are doing.
Considering Wormald’s inventions, and such crazy moves as a game of chess played with whisky miniatures (every ‘piece’ that’s taken has to be drunk, the point being to get a security chief inebriated – a ploy of which he’s happily aware), the ending has a sudden seriousness.
Except there’s a kind of epilogue, satirically showing how the British Establishment rewards incompetence, and a warm-hearted image of the good folk walking-off into the drizzly London sunset. Sean Needham has a puzzled innocence apt for Wormald; among the hard-working ensemble Alison Thea-Skot provides a series of sharply-delineated, deeply-felt characters.
Narrator/Lopez/Bank Teller/Tourist/Pimp/Reverend Mother/Bell Boy/ Consular Official/Ethel/Chief Policeman/Segura/Waiter: Sam Kordbacheh.
Wormold: Sean Needham.
Narrator/Hawthorne/Dr Hasselbacher/Waiter/Teresa/Professor Sanchez/Carter: Sam Pay.
Narrator/Tourist/Molly/Miss Jenkinson/Beatrice/Sanchez’s Woman/Air Hostess/O’Toole/Stripper: Alison Thea-Skot.
Director: Bob Carlton.
Designer: Norman Coates.
Lighting: Andy Smart.