Back in 1989, when an octogenarian Graham Greene was still alive and living in Switzerland, Giles Havergal the then co-director of the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow had the quirky notion of adapting his 1969 novel for the stage – but with just four male actors playing all the parts, including the catalytic role of the morally dubious 75 year-old Aunt Augusta who suddenly re-enters the life of retired bank manager Henry Pulling at his mother’s funeral.
From her flat above the Rose and Crown, to Paris, the Orient Express, Istanbul and Paraguay this dull middle-aged man leaves suburbia behind to accompany her on a series of comic adventures as she smuggles gold, ditches her black lover from Sierra Leone, and is reunited with a former Nazi collaborator.
Dressed in identical suits Jonathan Hyde, David Bamber and Iain Mitchell split the part of Henry between them and slip nimbly in and out of various roles – Hyde clutching delicately at his throat to become the unconventional septuagenarian with her colourful history, Bamber wide-eyed as a couple of teenage girls, Mitchell as Agatha’s love interest past and present. And a hard-working Gregory Gudgeon takes charge of props and fills in the gaps – even (and very effectively, too) playing an Irish wolfhound.
Christopher Luscombe directs with a light comic touch, Colin Falconer provides a fusty railway station set and the actors seem to be having as much fun as the audience as Henry comes to realise there’s more to life than cultivating dahlias.
Menier Chocolate Factory , 53 Southwark Street, SE1 1RU
Tube | London Bridge
Until 29th June
£29 – £35 (MealDeals £35.50 – £39.00)
Photo: Catherine Ashmore