The Young Pleasance have always been a highlight of any visit to Edinburgh Fringe, so, the news that some recent graduates have launched Spies Like Us Theatre Company is particularly good news. Their first production, Our Man in Havana, is a spy caper which is bursting with the high production values typical of The Young Pleasance. Adapted from the Graham Greene novel by two members of the company, Ollie Norton Smith and Hamish Lloyd Barnes, in a very clever and well thought out way.
Brit abroad and struggling vacuum cleaner salesman James Wormold is rather unexpectedly recruited into the British secret service, and tasked with setting up a full operation in Havana, Cuba. He hasn’t the first idea how to do this, but needing the cash to fund his daughters’ extravagant lifestyle, he fabricates the whole thing, sending false reports back to London, with hilarious consequences.
Our Man in Havana has been beautifully directed by Ollie Norton Smith, the cast are dressed identically, with most of them playing multiple roles. The only props on stage are a variety of vacuum cleaner parts, which are adapted to every need. Anything that can’t be fashioned from a hose or nozzle, is formed from one or more members of the cast.
All are on stage throughout, often translating internal thoughts to physical movements. The choreography from Zac Nemorin, is great with some impressive Cuban dancing. Alex Holley, as James Wormold couldn’t be more perfect for the role, personifying the suave English gentleman too far out of his depth. While Hamish Lloyd Barnes continues to impress as an actor, just watch his finely honed facial expressions and movements when he’s not part of the main action. All the cast do a great job, with Phoebe Campbell also standing out.
Our Man in Havana is an incredibly funny production, the audience lapping up the subtle, and not so subtle jokes combined with physical comedy. Bringing together impressive production values, which more established companies would be envious of, this is a production, and company, with a bright future ahead.