Operation Mincemeat

Venue: Fortune Theatre, London
Cast: David Cumming, Claire Marie Hall, Natasha Hodgson, Jak Malone and Zoë Roberts

The year is 1943 and we’re losing the war. Luckily, we’re about to gamble all our futures on a stolen corpse.

Singin’ in the Rain meets Strangers on a Train, Noel Coward meets Noel Fielding, Operation Mincemeat is the fast-paced, hilarious and unbelievable true story of the twisted secret mission that won us World War II. The question is, how did a well-dressed corpse wrong-foot Hitler?

"Ridiculously brilliant and close-to-the-mark genius".

The hype for Operation Mincemeat has swept the UK in recent years with runs at the New Diorama Theatre, Southwark Playhouse and Riverside Studios, starting from 2019. On 29th March 2023, the show began previews in the West End's iconic Fortune Theatre. With the Fortune Theatre being home to The Woman in Black for over three decades, the show had big shoes to fill. Since opening, it has been met with an unprecedented amount of five-star reviews, and it seems as though ours will be no different. In fact, I couldn't think of any venue more suited to the quirkiness of the show.

As an audience member who's never had much interest in history, I wondered if this would be a show for me, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. This modern take on Operation Mincemeat from the second world war is ridiculously brilliant and close-to-the-mark genius

The first act focuses heavily on familiarising the audience with the story. The plot centres on MI5 as they brainstorm ways to fool Hitler into moving his troops from Sicily to Sardinia. After much deliberation, they decide the best course of action is for a corpse to arrive in Spain, complete with falsified plans. Throw in puns, gags and gender-swapping, and you have Operation Mincemeat the Musical.

It leans in heavily to the egotism of men during this time, and their overarching sense of superiority. However, it does it in such a way that's nothing short of hysterical. What I found most profound about this production is it's ability to keep the balance of comedy and tragedy. It's undoubtedly a heavy topic, and while most is kept light-hearted, it's serious when needed.

With a cast of just five, each actor plays multiple roles. It's astounding how a voice, or something as simple as body language makes each character distinguishable from the next. Jak Malone as Hester Leggatt shines the brightest, with his stunning rendition of "Dear Bill", which moved me to tears. For comedy, I'm not sure there's any actor suited more to the role of Charles Cholmondeley than David Cumming. who's one-liners steal the show: "Does a newt have a penis?"

The book, music and lyrics by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts, are fantastically witty, and I think having three of the four creators in the cast only helps to elevate the production. With genres spanning from ballads, to dance - one thing's for sure, it's incredibly catchy. Particular standout numbers were "Das Übermensch", which I can only describe as a Nazi-style Haus of Holbein (Six) and "Making a Man", complete with bloodied-glittered mortician aprons. "A Glitzy Finale" feels even more of a fever dream than the rest of the production (yes, it's possible!).

The costuming and set from Ben Stones is minimal, which only makes the finale seem even more fantastical. The use of sound and lighting from Mike Walker and Mark Henderson is mostly understated, but complimentary. The musical direction from Joe Bunker is simply phenomenal in a band of just four people

One thing's for sure, Operation Mincemeat is brilliant and it's understandable why the show has already been extended until September 2024. Satire used in the most wonderfully British way and I can't wait for my next visit to MI5.

Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical’s extended run is until 22nd September 2024 at the West End’s Fortune Theatre. More info and tickets at the Official Box Office: OperationMincemeat.com

**photography by Matt Crockett**

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