Posts Tagged ‘Ben Morales Frost’

Prolific appears to be the word of the month, this time used to describe the output of Graham Greene, whose 79 works include novels & short stories, plays, travel, biography and films. This 1958 novel has been adapted as a film, opera, play and now musical. Set in pre-Castro Cuba, it’s a comic story centred around a vacuum cleaner salesman who turns to spying to supplement his income in support if his young daughter’s expensive lifestyle.

The salesman, Wormold, is approached by Hawthorne from MI6 and agrees to spy. Soon he realises he has nothing to pass on, so he makes things up, information London accepts. He gets ever more ambitious, sending fake drawings and diagrams of military installations, which encourages his superiors to send out a ‘secretary’ Beatrice to help him. Things escalate as invention and reality collide, and there’s an attempt on his life which results in the death of his best friend. Meanwhile he has to deal with the developing relationship between his daughter Milly and military Captain Segura, which is resolved in a game of draughts with each winning move resulting in an alcoholic shot. This latter sub-plot, and his daughter’s spending (one time she comes home having bought a horse!) stretch plausibility.

They do their best to conjure up Havana, but there are only six actor-musicians, though the inventive design by Kat Heath does help. The songs are serviceable, with appropriate Latin rhythms, but don’t really contribute much to the storytelling. The first half lags, but it does improve significantly after the interval. My problem with it is that I don’t think the material lends itself to musical theatre adaptation, and the story seems to have lost much humour in transition. Tightening and speeding up up the first half would help, but I’m not sure it would solve the problem.

It’s well staged by Abigail Pickard Price, and well performed by the six actor-musicians, and provides a pleasant enough afternoon or evening. I respect and indeed admire Richard Hough and Ben Morales Frost for having a go, but it’s not (yet?) a fully formed show.

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