Director Rod Duncan has his work cut out in this terrific play, as the cast of four play no less than – gulp – 39 parts between them. The inventive mobile sets make an invaluable fifth, albeit inanimate, cast member. The hilarious mobile toilet scene for example is unforgettable. The giant projection screen is also an effective flourish.
John Fereday is well cast as Wormold, an unsuccessful vacuum cleaner salesman turned superspy and purveyor of dubious weapons of mass destruction.
Fereday’s Mensaesque memory is required since he is on stage for practically 99% of the time. The consistently reliable Phil Gascoyne plays MI5 spook Hawthorne who improbably recruits Wormold who proceeds to play fantasy espionage with increasingly serious results.
The plot is so outrageously farcical, one suspects it must have some semi-autobiographical resonance. Indeed the old adage Write What You Know is true in novelist Greene’s story.
There’s a clever U-turn in the second act as enjoyable silliness morphs into a gripping, intriguing and absorbing thriller. There is a genuine shock as Everyman hero Wormold takes matters into his own hands with deadly force.
Ross Bannister relishes his over the top Cuban caricatures including Police captain Segura, a marvellously moustachioed Chief, and Wormold’s nice but dim assistant Lopez. Fran Rooker is on form as Wormold’s daughter Milly and just to confuse everyone also plays Wormold’s love interest, Beatrice.
The superb soundtrack is worth the entrance fee alone. Expect it to be on sale in the foyer alongside calendars sometime soon?