Our Man in Havana @ Nottingham Playhouse

Vacuum cleaners, men dressed as nuns, and the British Secret Service. Adapted from a Graham Greene novel, ‘Our Man In Havana’ is a farcical comedy set in 1950s Cuba. Bewildered Mr Wormold, a vacuum cleaner salesman, becomes reluctantly entangled in the world of espionage. Unfortunately, it isn’t just the setting that it is reminiscent of the past; it’s the jokes too. For those of us used to the cutting edge comedy of shows such as ‘The Office’ and ‘The Mighty Boosh’, ‘Our Man In Havana’ comes across as rather dated. A middle aged man pretending to be the Queen just doesn’t do it for me. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the comedy of bygone years – over a century later and the plays of Oscar Wilde retain their bite – but the kind of slapstick, ‘Jolly good, old boy!’ buffoonery of ‘Our Man In Havana’ becomes outmoded with time.

It’s not immediately apparent why ‘Our Man In Havana’ was chosen for theatrical adaption, as the twists and turns of the plot must be developed at the expense of characterisation; you never do feel much empathy for Wormold, nor are you interested to see how he will resolve his predicament. More laughs could also have been generated from the set up of having only four actors play an array of characters, such as the moment when Wormold tells secretary Beatrice that she reminds him of his daughter Milly, both played by the actress Beth Cordingly. As a production, ‘Our Man In Havana’ isn’t awful – it is energetic and the actors throw themselves into their roles with enthusiasm – but it’s not something I’d recommend as a student night out. Unless you want to bring your gran.

Stephanie Soh

ArtsArts Reviews

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