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Wednesday, 20 April 2022

REVIEW: Our Man in Havana at the Watermill Theatre

It has been a very long time since I have read a Graeme Greene novel having studied the Power and the Glory at school but the title Our Man from Havana nevertheless has a strong resonance because of the Alec Guinness film of 1959 and its theme of spy relationships set in Cuba just ahead of the seismic change in the country with the emergence of Fidel Castro and the breakdown of the relationship with America which gave the book a prophetic feel. It was somewhat bold to adapt the book into a new musical and the progress of the development as always was anything but straightforward. With a director for the first workshop, a director for the casting in 2019/20 and a third, Abigail Pickard Price for the actual production the vision for the staging must have evolved over the course of its final development. 

The final show which opened at the Watermill Newbury on the 11th of April is a curious mix described as a rollercoaster comedy in its promotion. It has the feel of a cross between the 1967 David Niven version of James Bond, with Rowan Atkinson’s Johnny English character and Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau with some Noel Coward style patter songs and Cuban rhythms and percussion. The comedy of those spy/detective creations is never quite matched in this production. The Programme also describes Havana as the “mistress of pleasure” but we never really get a sense of the casinos, gambling houses and horse racing that attracted the rich and famous but are rather left in seedy bars, clubs and homes. 
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