Our Man In Havana
OUR Man in Havana is a secret service comedy based on Graham Greene’s experience of working in counter-intelligence in World War 2. Greene discovered that much of the “intelligence” was simply made up: officers were filing imaginary information from imaginary agents. What a gift for any writer.
The novel was adapted for the screen in 1959, but it wasn’t until 2007 that Clive Francis came up with a stage version. Featuring a cast of just four to play a wide - very wide - range of characters in lots - and lots - of locations.
Well, it has to be said that it works a treat. It delivers, as billed, as a fast moving farce. It also vividly evokes a pre-Castro Cuba that’s “good for roulette and brothels.” The scripting is true, too, to Greene’s lean prose and his cool but compassionate take on the human condition.
The ensemble playing from the Tudor Players cast is all but flawless, with deft comic timing throughout.
Phil Gascoyne and Ross Bannister shift seamlessly from one character to another, and there’s very good support from Fran Roooker.
John Fereday is really rather wondeful as Wormold, the hapless Hoover salesman whose world starts to unravel when he is unwittingly recruited by the British Secret Service.
It’s intelligently directed (Rod Duncan), inventively staged - and a real treat.
University Drama Studio
THIS play by Ella Hickson must seem unnervingly close to the lives of those who make up the production team, crew and cast of this production by Sheffield University Theatre Company.
It’s set in the summer of 2011, and centres on a group of young people who are living in a flat – some of whom are about to graduate, and all of whom are under thirty.
The spectre of unemployment induces a sense of desperation, and for all their high spirits, they are caught in a mood of fear, alienation and despair.
This is heightened by the civil unrest taking place in the streets – and which is witnessed by the group from a small window which is a telling feature of a realistically chaotic set.
As the audience come in, a party is in progress – and nicely contrasts with the painful, funny, achingly believable exchanges which make up the play itself.
Timp, the oldest of the flat-mates, played with magnetic flair by Josh Finan, is a drug-taking wide-boy, both charismatic and vaguely inadequate.
The others, Mack (Alfie Reynolds), Benny (Alex Griffiths), Cam (Ollie Raggett), Sophie (Aoife Boyle) and Laura (Sarah Sharp, the director, understudying for Laura Beaumont) are all convincingly realised.
They are not types, or caricatures, but individuals, vulnerable and slightly mysterious – as people often are in life.
At the end the self-doubting Cam’s recording of himself playing the violin is strangely touching.
The young women seem more grounded than the men – hence the title. It’s a challenging piece.