May 2015 – Our Man in Havana




Clive Francis’s adaption of Graham Greene’s novel originally involved some 45 scene changes and a cast of 4 playing a myriad of parts. The object of the play was to tell the story of the novel and this was at the expense of character development; for a novel is several hundred pages long and a play isn’t. Nevertheless Director Ros Tunbridge gave us memorable moments with a large cast and her production team was a smooth error-less machine; their unobtrusive presence kept the plot moving.

Joe Crisfield as James Wormold the vacuum salesman recruited as a spy by British Intelligence without the faintest idea of what to do was extremely convincing and I certainly believed that British intelligence was capable of this idiocy. There were two narrators, the first played by Ron White with a smiling charm that was quite beguiling as he plied us with information and in addition he was a dogmatic Chief of Intelligence. The second was Ian Mess more monosyllabic and with the ability to change into a Barman, Drinks Waiter etc.

Wormold had an expensive daughter Milly (Becky Chrisfield) and as he was short of money he invented characters whose names he got from the Country Club and added to his payroll for which he received recompense. In addition he sent drawings of vacuum cleaner parts as if they were secret installations; Headquarters being suitably impressed. His friend Dr.Hasselbacher acted teutonically by Jim Gibbons turned out not to be what he seemed, dying beautifully with only his feet protruding from the edge of a flat. The play got a dark edge as our opponents in the Cold War started to murder the fictitious with the real names and one of the funniest scenes was the attempt to poison Wormold at the Vacuum Cleaners’ Convention.

Captain Segura (Jon Slade) of the police looked suitably villainous and South American but tended to sound South London but we warmed to him as his uniform was suitably slovenly. A special mention for Chester Stern who’s Teresa from the Shanghai Theatre was every chauvinistic male’s feminine nightmare; a veritable ‘coup de theatre’.

Rick Roberts had many parts, excelling as the Bank Teller and Lopez (Neil Tunbridge) sounded Mexican which was probably the same as Cuban since both spoke Spanish. Wormold was sent an assistant Beatrice (Caroline East) who eventually provided the romantic interest.

There were thirteen cast members many of which had multiple parts from Nuns to tourists’ fellow vacuum salesmen and even the Queen.

I am glad that Parlour Players had the courage to tackle this very difficult play and did provide us with an original evening’s entertainment.