Operation Mincemeat is taking London by storm, bringing SpitLip’s musical comedy about the unbelievable World War II mission of the same name to life on stage. It is playing at the intimate Fortune Theatre in Covent Garden which hosts a little over 400 seats and the show continues to extend its London run after receiving over 60 5-star reviews and earning its own loyal band of fans in the ‘mincefluencers’. In the autumn I won the Mincemeat Lottery, which gave us the opportunity to purchase tickets for £25.00. I was so excited to finally see the show, after hearing incredible things on the theatre circuit.
About the show
Operation Mincemeat is based on the real-life mission that saw intelligence operatives deceive the Nazis into invading Sardinia over Sicily using a corpse. The deception saved many lives on both sides and inspired a film and theatre production. SpitLip have turned the remarkable events into a musical about the people involved in the mission and how they pulled off such a complex task. It is hilarious and sensitive, managing to make you laugh and cry in the space of two hours (excluding an interval).
Staging, set and lighting design
The set design is relatively minimal, with Ben Stones creating an office environment that could easily represent the secret services and also act as a backdrop for the other locations represented. Moving set pieces and props visually separate the different settings, making the set design versatile. When paired with Mark Henderson’s bold lighting effects and projections, it is commendable how much the office layout changes, turning into a club in ‘Just For Tonight’ and a navy ship in ‘Sail on, Boys’. The simplicity never hinders the direction of the narrative, it just encourages the audience to focus their attention on the cast who are ultimately the stars of the show.
Five performers play multiple roles in the show, from the core characters of Ewan Montague (Natasha Hodgson), Charles Cholmondeley (David Cumming), Colonel Bevan (Zoë Roberts), Hester Leggett (Jak Malone) and Jean Leslie (Claire-Marie Hall), to several smaller parts. The quick changes are extremely slick, with the cast working together to seamlessly transition between the different characters and locations. The production is a masterclass in dual role theatre, with a particular standout moment being Seán Carey in the roles of Hester, Bernard Spilsbury, Pilot Willy Watkins and various others. Carey was covering Malone’s parts when I watched the show and I was so impressed by the performer’s acting and comedy ranges. Hester and Spilsbury are such contrasting characters and to be able to switch between them in merely seconds is no easy feat.
What I adore most of all about the show is the structure of the soundtrack. SpitLip have adopted a similar approach to Come From Away in utilising reprises and repeating melodies to keep a consistent musical theme and tone throughout. The songs manage to be both nostalgic and contemporary, covering various genres in the musical’s runtime. Highlights for me are the very modern ‘All The Ladies’ and the understated ‘Useful’, with strong messages of female empowerment. ‘God That’s Brilliant’ and ‘Making A Man’ are also really creative numbers, using rap and spoken word to drive the narrative.
Comedy but with sensitivity
At face value it is a brilliant musical comedy, but behind the laughs, the production is careful to leave room for reflection and paying respects to the people that inspired the story. From comments about the largely unrecognised role of women in World War II to the admiration of the ordinary people at the centre of the operation, it is clear that the creative team are mindful of the human impact of the events. As a result of this, you aren’t really laughing at the characters, you are laughing along with them and supporting their incredible journey. I can only congratulate SpitLip on striking the perfect balance between comedy and paying tribute to the servicemen and women.
A slick and fast-paced musical triumph
Operation Mincemeat is one of the best musicals that I have seen in London in a long time. The show’s incomparable strengths lie in SpitLip’s creative and comical storytelling through dialogue, witty songs and an underlying sense of heart. The skeleton staging and small cast is proof that simplicity in the West End can triumph.
I had the opportunity to chat to SpitLip after the performance at stage door and it was fascinating hearing about the show’s journey through multiple theatres to the West End. When a musical is this good, long may the run in London continue. I already have the soundtrack stuck in my head and have actually been to see the show again, since my original visit. Performances run until 21st September at The Fortune Theatre.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx