One could be forgiven for presuming the loneliness of the long-distance vacuum cleaner salesman to not exactly be the most dynamic raw material for top-drawer adventure yarns. This didn't stop Graham Greene, however, whose 1958 pastiche of very British spy stories was filmed a year later by Carol Reed. Clive Francis' stage version dates from 2007, and in Richard Baron's new production mines an ongoing vogue for doing pocket-sized modern classics with one eyebrow archly raised.
Baron's cast of four open the show with a nod to Greene's own tenure in the spying game as each shares the narration between them to unveil the fast-moving story concerning Jim Wormold, the down-at-heel salesman who's been ditched by his wife for an American and left in Cuba with his precocious teenage daughter Milly in tow. Inexplicably enlisted by the London secret service to keep an eye on any nefarious activities Johnny Foreigner might be getting up to, Wormold seizes the opportunity to make a few bob by inventing a rogues gallery of undercover agents. Only when his fictional creations start dying for real do things start to go ever so slightly awry.
With Andrew Loudon playing a terminally bemused looking Wormold as everyone else onstage flits through a series of quick-fire costume changes, Baron's company conjure up a ridiculous world of global paranoia at the hands of non-existing threats. Playing more than thirty characters between them, Roger Delves-Broughton, Jessica Guise and Steven McNicoll have tremendous fun throwing on new disguises in a merry dance of a show in which old loyalties to Queen and country are shown up to be elaborate fictions that begin to look increasingly absurd.
The Herald, November 12th 2015