World premiere at Newbury's Watermill theatre alive with Cuban vibe
Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana at The Watermill, Bagnor until May 21. Review by ROBIN STRAPP
The Watermill theatre have a world premiere with Ben Morales Frost and Richard Hough’s musical adaption of Graham Greene’s satirical novel Our Man in Havana – and it sizzles with the exotic Cuban atmosphere.
Kat Heath’s inventive set perfectly captures the atmosphere of the old streets of 1950s Havana during President Batista’s administration before Castro came to power.
James Wormold, impressively played by Nigel Lister, is a vacuum cleaner salesman whose extravagant 17-year-old daughter Millie, the delightful Daniella Agredo Piper, is excessively spending his money on shopping trips which he can ill afford; especially as she wants a racehorse for her birthday.
When he accidently meets the MI6 agent Hawthorne (Alvara Flores) in the local bar he is recruited to spy on the suspected Soviet activity on the island with the promise of unlimited funds to support his activities. An ideal solution to his financial problems.
The trouble is that he doesn’t have any intelligence information to pass on and is persuaded by his long-time friend and confidant Dr Hasselbacher (Adam Keast) to invent characters and situations to send back to London. He gathers names from the local newspaper to use, which has disastrous consequences.
MI6 begins to get suspicious and sends Beatrice (Paula James) to allegedly provide secretarial support but really to investigate Hawthorne, much to his angst. She also plays the alluring Maria and has a powerful captivating singing voice.
Flores also plays the corrupt police officer who has desires on Milly and his seductive romantic song to her is truly comical.
There is a wonderful scene when he plays a game of chequers with Wormold with miniature spirit bottles as the pieces.
It’s become obvious to Hawthorne and Milly that “the game is up” and the only way to survive this tangled web of lies is to escape from Cuba.
This vibrant energetic production has the usual Watermill’s trademark of actor/musicians who create the Cuban vibe with so much skill, moving from instrument to instrument under Antonio Sánchez’s inspired on-stage musical direction.
Directed with pizzaz by Abigail Pickard Price, this is not to be missed.