Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Our Man in Havanna

In January we will be reading Our Man in Havanna, based on the Graham Greene novel.

It might be interesting for you to know that this play, a dark but light-hearted comedy of spying in the Cold War, is based on fact!  While working in counter-espionage for MI6, Greene came across the story of a German agents in Portugal who were feeding fictitious reports to their masters back home in order to benefit financially.  One Spanish double agent, Garbo, pretended to have a ring of agents all over England and became the inspiration for Wormold: the 'hero' of the play.

Greene wrote his version of the play in 1946, set in Estonia: but it was never published.  He then felt the Cold War would be a better background for the storyline, and it was finally published in 1958.  The following year it was turned into a film starring Alec Guinness, and in 1963 into an opera!

You can hear an excerpt from the opera on Youtube:

Clive Francis adapted the book into a play in 2007.

The Film

Although the revolutionary Cuban Government allowed the film to be shot in the capital, Fidel Castro complained that the novel did not accurately portray the brutality of the Batista (the cruel former dictator who fled the country €300 million of the country's money with him) regime.

Wikipedia reports Greene as commenting:

Alas, the book did me little good with the new rulers in Havana. In poking fun at the British Secret Service, I had minimized the terror of Batista's rule. I had not wanted too black a background for a light-hearted comedy, but those who suffered during the years of dictatorship could hardly be expected to appreciate that my real subject was the absurdity of the British agent and not the justice of a revolution.

Greene's work is not celebrated in Cuba having fallen out with them due to his disapproval of aspects of the new regime's policies against certain peoples (eg Catholics, homosexuals).

The cast is huge!  It will be interesting to see how we cope with it!

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