JOYCE MCMILLAN on OUR MAN IN HAVANA at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, for The Scotsman, 31.10.15.
4 stars ****
THE SHOW begins in the foyer, at Pitlochry’s autumn production of Our Man In Havana; not with one of those unexpected pre-show interludes, but with a loud rustle of appreciation, as the audience browses the pages of a tabloid-sized programme all in the style of a 1950’s newspaper, completely with cheeky vacuum cleaner advert (“It sucks like a dream…”) and new-look fashion sketches.
It’s an undeniably light-touch experience, Clive Francis’s ingenious stage version for four actors of Graham Greene’s great 1958 novel; it highlights the comedic and absurdist aspects of Greene’s story of a hard-up British vacuum-cleaner salesman living in Havana who, at the height of Cold War paranoia, somehow finds himself posting entirely fictional intelligence to MI6 in return for large amounts of cash.
If this is an adaptation that never digs too deeply into Greene’s ever-present undercurrent of darkness, though, Richard Baron’s production whips it up into a delicious, witty and highly satirical entertainment, featuring a suitably vague central performance from Andrew Loudon as our hero Wormold, with Roger Delves-Broughton, Steven McNicoll, and the astonishingly clever and gorgeous Jessica Guise whirling around him in a whole range of roles, from his foot-stamping Lolita of a teenage daughter to the sinister chequers-playing police chief, Segura. Ken Harrison’s set designs are as effective and witty as the programme; and although the story’s romantic conclusion, back in rainy London, involves a touch of wishful thinking, we’re left in no doubt that long before the phrase “dodgy dossier” was ever coined, Graham Greene had the number of Britain’s security services, and was not entirely impressed.
Until 14 November.