Spies Like Us Theatre’s adaptation of Graham Greene’s classic novel is, quite simply, a joy. I’ve rarely seen physical theatre done this seamlessly, and I’ve rarely laughed so consistently for an hour-long show. From the first second all five actors engaged the audience in a way that invited everyone in the room the be a part of the joke and the silliness going on onstage, and the audience absolutely loved it.
If you are looking for fun, engaging comedy from extremely talented people then this show is highly recommended.
Telling the farcical story of a British vacuum cleaner salesman in Cuba being recruited against his will as a spy for MI6, Our Man in Havana uses no props except for parts of a vacuum cleaner, which become everything from a car to a dog, and employs five actors in innumerable roles. At the centre of the tale, Alex Holley creates a likable figure as James Wormold, giving the audience an into the madness of the story. There was not a weak link in the cast, but also worthy of special mention are Tullio Campanale whose facial expressions are deserving of a show of their own, and Rosa Collier whose turn as Wormold’s sassy daughter provided some of the play’s best humour.
However, as all actors are onstage the whole time and are all constantly invested in the story, the real star is the ensemble itself. Choreographer Zak Nemorin created fantastic synchronised dances and also provides the best representations of modes of transport I have ever seen in a piece of physical theatre – watch out in particular for the plane. Lights and sounds supported this in a way that never felt invasive but instead helped the show flow. The moments of self-reference and direct contact with the audience were so smoothly done they made me laugh out loud, and despite the sweat dripping off them by the end, no actor showed any sign of not loving every second of high-energy silliness.
The only weak moments came in occasional over-exposition, where it seemed like the performers were worrying too much about making sure the audience was very clear on the finer details of the plot. These moments were, however, rare, and is probably more a fault of the adaptation than of this production. All in all, Ollie Norton-Smith and his team, supported through the Pleasance Futures project, have created something extraordinary. If you are looking for fun, engaging comedy from extremely talented people then this show is highly recommended.