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January 11, 2014

OurManInHavanaIT TAKES imagination and an Englishman’s sense of humour to make a comedy about the dark world of spying and threatened nuclear holocaust, using a vacuum cleaner salesman as the hero.

Graham Greene’s ‘Our Man In Havana’ is a classic spoof on all the ‘serious suits’ and holy men of MI5, and features as the opening play of the winter season at Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre next month.

Published in 1958, the book is set in Cuba during the overbearing Batista regime and prior to the Castro revolution.

A time when nervous British Secret Service agents were trying to establish a foothold in the county, they sought out James Wormold a vacuum cleaner salesman, to act as an espionage agent!

It is Graham Greene at his best, poking fun at the establishment but at the same time bringing in enough of the dark side of life. Think of his evil ‘Pinkie’ in Brighton Rock, superbly played by Richard Attenborough with an unforgettable performance of hatred shrivelling into a piteous ending.

GuinnessBoth elements of the writer’s talent appear in ‘Our Man in Havana’, with Greene using his stick of absurdities to highlight the ridiculous posturing of the Cold War.

The hero with the deliciously relevant Tolken name, James Wormold (Aled Guinness pictured left) is divorced and lives in Havana with his 16-year-old  daughter Milly, a paragon of Catholicism.

Add materialistic and manipulative to her character, it gives the idea that James was losing the financial battle to keep her.

However, up pops MI5 and offer James money to take on espionage work for British Intelligence.

It is here Greene works the magic of absurdity. In need of the money, our hero takes the cash but realises he has no information to send to London, so he buys the local papers. This develops to setting up his own fictitious spy ring, costing more money from the coffers of HMG, all ending up in his pocket.

To keep London interested, he starts sends pencil drawings of his vacuum cleaner parts, passing them off as secret military buildings seen in the Cuban mountains, but as with all big lies, the need for more outstrips reality.

The humour degenerates in shades as London’s reaction and Cuban counter intelligence get involved.

Greene had intimate knowledge for the story, having joined MI6 in August 1941 In London.

cowardHe had been appointed to the department dealing with counter-espionage in the Iberian peninsula, where he discovered German agents in Portugal sending fictitious reports back to Berlin and gaining extra money to top up their salaries..

One of these was a Spanish double agent in Lisbon who gave his German handlers information by pretending to control a ring of agents all over England, and invented armed forces movements and operations from maps, guides and standard military references.

A fine mixture of ingredients for an evening’s entertainment in Hornchurch.

Directed by the Queen’s Artistic Director, Bob Carlton, the play features Cut to the Chase favourites Sam Kordbacheh, Sam Pay, Alison Thea-Skot and Sean Needham.

It runs from Friday January 31 to Saturday February 22, with tickets £16.50 to £26.50.

You could also join Jump the Q for £64 covering all four shows in the season: Our Man in Havana, Two and Two Make Sex, The Great Gatsby and Godspell.

The Queen’s Theatre, Billet Lane, Hornchurch, RM11 1QT. Tickets available from the box office on 01708 443333. .

Pictures from Bing Library

From → Entertainment

One Comment
  1. Nice Blog, thanks for sharing this kind of information.


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