Any work that springs from the Young Pleasance is usually fairly unmissable at the Fringe. Delivered by Spies Like Us, an ensemble physical theatre company comprised of six Young Pleasance graduates, Our Man in Havana is no exception to the rule.
“an uproarious parody of the various conventions of the Cold Ear espionage genre”
Based on Graham Greene’s 1958 novel, Our Man in Havana explores the world of Cold War surveillance through the eyes of unassuming vacuum cleaner salesman Jim Wormold, who is inexplicably recruited by MI6 to spy in Havana, Cuba. The show recalls the delights of Patrick Barlow’s long-running adaptation of The 39 Steps, with which it shares a nostalgia for early twentieth-century tales of English espionage, using an impressively small cast playing a hilariously wide multitude of roles, and impressive feats of physical theatre.
Performing in the relatively confined space of Pleasance Below, the five-strong cast showed prodigious ability in their physical sequences, impressively recreating the sense of car chases and concealed backroom discussions with a wit and charm that marks them out as ones to watch for the future. One gasp-inducing moment came when one of the young actors twirled his co-star around in the air and, as she landed back on her feet, the action of a chase scene continued at a dizzying pace.
Our Man in Havana is also an immensely funny show, with every actor possessing acute comic timing well beyond their years and using this to great effect throughout. Equally, their slightly heightened accents and posture perfectly recreated the 1960s world of glamour and danger that Greene’s original novel evokes, serving both as a faithful tribute to it, while also managing to be an uproarious parody of the various conventions of the Cold Ear espionage genre, on both page and screen.
Spies Like Us have delivered an immensely enjoyable theatrical experience, which will plunge you into a world of gloriously silly and nostalgic escapism for an hour and which, I suspect, given the heady pace and richness of the show, would gain even more from repeat viewing.
Pleasance Courtyard – Below, 2nd – 28th August, 13:00
Image: Pleasance Theatre Trust