Our Man In Havana tells the story of a vacuum cleaner salesman turned spy
Espionage, deception, Cold War paranoia, and vacuum cleaners—all of these things are featured in Bright Young Things’ upcoming play Our Man in Havana.
The play focuses on Jim Wormold, a humble, but unfortunate vacuum cleaner salesman who finds himself in the shady world of British intelligence while living in Cuba.
“It’s all for money. Well, that and love for his daughter that motivates him to make enough money to retire in the 1950s,” says actor Ian Leung, who plays Wormold. “He’s kind of under assault by forces all around him. Especially by Hawthorne, the secret service recruiter who doesn’t really take ‘no’ for an answer. Before he knows it, Jim is recruited.”
The offer and money seem too good to be true, so Wormold takes the job without having the slightest clue of how to be a proper spy.
“But he has an imagination, so he creates fake contacts to keep scamming the secret service,” Leung says.
The story is based on Graham Greene’s 1958 novel of the same name, which has been adapted into film, opera, and theatre.
“It’s kind of based on a true story” says director Kate Ryan. “Graham Greene actually worked for the secret service himself. There was also this guy Kim Philby, who took the same job as Wormold and just lied about everything, but he turned out to be a double agent. Juan Garcia was another one who made up a bunch of stuff about fake agents while he lived in Lisbon.”
Belinda Cornish, founder of Bright Young Things and producer of the play, was drawn to the story for its “wonderfully English feel” and captivating story.
“It fits really well with what Bright Young Things does. The kind of plays we do are mid-century classics,” she says.
Cornish also plays Beatrice, a secretary for the secret service who gets caught up in Wormold’s lies.
“We tend to focus on terrific comedy stories with rich characters,” Cornish says. “This one is a combination of this riot comedy with the backdrop of the dark Cold War.”
Wormold deals with an assortment of wacky characters like Captain Segura, played by Mark Meer, a military policeman who is known for having a ruthless past.
“Segura is known as the “Red Vulture” for his terror and torture, but he is genuinely pretty nice to Wormold at the start because he wants to marry his daughter,” Meer says.
The play features 32 characters performed by four actors taking on multiple roles.
“I jump from playing Segura, the head of the secret service, and the Queen of England at one point,” Meer explains.
Ryan adds, “It’s hilarious how we kept almost all of the characters in the story.”
Our Man in Havana is a farce comedy and a vague commentary on misinformation currently clouding society.
“I think it’s kind of relevant today with the whole ‘fake news’ thing,” Ryan says.
“Especially with the all the collusion, Russia and the fallacy of what’s real and what’s not,” Cornish adds.
The play will be the first installment of the Varscona Theatre Ensemble, a theatre troupe made up of Atlas Theatre, Bright Young Things, and The Plain Janes.
“We retain our artistic autonomy, but we work together and have a similar aesthetic,” Cornish says. “This comedy that shows the ridiculousness of the secret service during the Cold War is the perfect launch.”
Thu., Nov. 23 – Sat., Dec. 2
Our Man In Havana
Varscona Theatre, $37