Seeing and understanding are two quite different things. That difference is even greater when what's in vision concerns the clash of cultures. So the revival of Michael Frayn's 1976 comedy-with-bite is as topical today as it was then - and probably will be in another 30 years.
Clouds is set in Castro's Cuba. Rival British Sunday paper colour supplement editors have commissioned Owen, a been-there, done-that journalist (Lloyd Owen) and Mara (Tara Fitzgerald), a romantic novelist to write articles on the current state of the island. The misunderstandings begin at once as each thinks the other is the Tourism Ministry's appointed minder.
Enter Ed (Rolf Saxon), also on a literary mission, though this time from the United States. He's been to Cuba before and written an academic tome based on his experiences, but his vision is as much cloud-veiled as that of the two newcomers.
This being a Frayn play, you don't expect that either Angel (Darrell D'Silva), the actual Ministry official or Hilberto (Ewen Cummins), the driver of the allotted car will fit tidily into anyone's stereotype. They don't.
All five characters to some extent live in cloud-cuckoo-land so, when their heads momentarily come out of those clouds, the result is pain. Pain both physical and emotional. The audience is swept onto the same roller-coaster and our laughter is therefore rueful, especially towards the non-conclusive end.
Jennie Darnell's production keeps the action fast and furious with a black-box set by Matthew Wright and minimal furniture and props. Time of day, sultry heat and tropical storms are suggested through Tim Mitchell's effective lighting and projections, though I could have wished that Fergus O'Hare had muted some of his sound effects.
The performances are good and allow us to feel sorry for the individual dilemmas as well as exasperated by the mess the characters are making of their own and other people's lives. I especially liked Tara Fitzgerald's portrait of a Hampstead hippy aware of a skewed life-work balance and Darrell D'Silva's weary acceptance that life was, life is and probably will go on just the same.
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" wrote the French journalist Alphonse Karr in 1849. How true. Frayn knows it. So do the rest of us - when we take our heads out of the clouds.
- Anne Morley-Priestman (reviewed at Cambridge Arts Theatre)