A witty, fast-paced production: Sarah Atherton reviews 'Operation Mincemeat'
Operation Mincemeat, L-r: Jak Malone, Zoe Roberts, Natasha Hodgson, David Cumming and Claire-Marie Hall | Photo: Matt Crockett
It may be an unusual plot for a musical but this comedy based on a secret World War Two mission to outwit the Nazis comes highly recommended
You may remember watching the 2021 movie version of Operation Mincemeat, starring Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen, about the extraordinary (and true) story of a plan, involving a dead body and faked military documents placed off the coast of Spain, which altered the course of the Second World War. But have you heard about its remarkable, new namesake – a glitzy, musical comedy taking over London’s West End? At the time of writing it’s had 22 five-star reviews and been described in the press as “part Mel Brooks, part SIX, part Hamilton with a side order of One Man, Two Guvnors”. An unusual plot for a musical – but one which definitely works, 10/10!
The small ensemble of five (theatre company “SpitLip”) spend the two-hour-20-minute performance rattling through gag-after-hilarious-gag, switching cross-gender between a host of eccentric characters, and poking fun at just about everyone – especially the intelligence establishment (“just call the English public schoolboys, we’ll sort it all out!”) Catchy musical number God That’s Brilliant gets the show off to a terrific start as the big brains of MI5, including Bond writer Ian Fleming, debate how best to beat Hitler (“all we need is a shiny tuxedo and my design for a submarine car!”) Sharp costume changes and even sharper scene swaps are executed seamlessly. In one scene, a booming London nightclub becomes a tense and atmospheric submarine navigating depth charged waters with just the clever use of torches and fisherman’s beanies! The actors succeed in milking laugh-after-laugh, to the point where you realise, you and the rest of the audience have spent most of the run-time in stitches.
The actors succeed in milking laugh-after-laugh
Natasha Hodgson, who plays Ewen Montagu (among other characters), is a standout performance as the insufferably over-confident Naval intelligence officer who masterminded the plan. Jak Malone also delivers one of the most touching performances of the show as MI5 secretary Hester Leggett with “Dear Bill”, as she writes a love letter to be left in the jacket of Major William Martin – the persona created for the body. And David Cumming as the nerdy, newt-obsessed Charles Cholmondeley is another real talent whose physicality as the shy naturalist is second-to-none.
The catchy musical numbers and witty, fast-paced comedy doesn’t stop the cast from covering some of the more serious topics. The body of the man used in the deception, it is revealed at the end of the show, was identified in 1996 as Glyndwr Michael, a Welsh homeless man, who has since been recognised for his posthumous service by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. A touching tribute here reminds us that this is a story about real people and their legacy in helping to win the war and save lives continues today.
Operation Mincemeat is, without a doubt, a must-see musical. The show runs until August 2023, so I would highly recommend getting yourself a ticket while you still can. Echoing the words of one of the show’s catchy musical numbers: “You have your orders, now go!”
Sarah Atherton is Conservative MP for Wrexham
Music & lyrics: SpitLip
Venue: Fortune Theatre, London WC2, until August 19th
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