Our Man In Havana – August 2007

8/10

Adapted by Clive Francis from the novel by Graham Greene

Directed by: Richard Baron

Venue: Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Date: Friday 24th August 2007

This version of Our Man In Havana was great fun. I was vaguely aware of the story, though I haven’t seen the film nor read the book, so I was very open to see what they would do. This wasn’t the first performance but it was the second, so I wanted to give as much response as I could to help them get the feel of it. Also, one of the cast had had to be changed at short notice – Clive Francis came on at the start to make an announcement about it – so the replacement actor had only had a few days to learn lots of parts. Poor chap.

The set was really amazing. There were slatted screens across the back, which could be turned into doors, the side walls of a toilet cubicle, etc. Various desks and tables slid on and off and the cast were very good at bringing on the extras – chairs, drinks, etc. For one scene they even made the changes while dancing! Another panel to our right could be a shrine or Wormold’s desk, and there were so many variations that within a few seconds we could be anywhere we liked. There was even a map of that part of the Caribbean which came down every so often and a model plane on a stick which flew across from one side of the stage to the other – the sort of thing I really enjoy. I did find the lighting a little awkward at times – it left the actors’ faces in shadow a bit too often during the early stages – but hopefully they’ll sort that one out as they go.

It took about twenty minutes for the play to really get going – the first part obviously introduced all the characters and set the scene. It wasn’t a bad start, but there was so much to take in and my headset wasn’t working, so I had to concentrate to keep up. Also I found the amount of scene changing a bit distracting at first but that soon settled down. Once we got to the start of the fake agents, though, the whole performance took off. I loved the way the other actors came on and played out Wormold’s fantasies as he developed his list of agents.

From here, it’s a wonderful ride through the intricacies of Wormold’s web of deceit. The idea of senior Whitehall officials being fooled by large scale pictures of a vacuum cleaner was hugely entertaining, and I felt genuinely moved when Dr Hasselbacher died. Oh, and the dog that got poisoned was another great moment, as were Hawthorne’s (Clive Francis) reactions as he realised what Wormold had been up to, but felt he couldn’t expose him as he was receiving congratulations all round for finding him. Clive also had a great deal of fun with his portrayal of Teresa the stripper, as did we.

There’s too much to write it all down, so I do hope they produce a text for this. Other than Simon Shepherd, who was only Wormold and helped with the narration, each actor played a massive number of parts, and they got across the changes very well. Their adrenalin levels must be through the roof during each performance, as they have a lot to do and they all did the various roles extremely well. I certainly didn’t notice that one of the company was any less well rehearsed than the others. I hope we get a chance to see this again.

© 2007 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me

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