Operation Mincemeat was a successful British deceptive operation of the Second World War to disguise the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily. Two members of British intelligence obtained the body of Glyndwr Michael, a tramp who died from eating rat poison, dressed him as an officer of the Royal Marines and placed personal items on him identifying him as the fictitious Captain (Acting Major) William Martin. Correspondence between two British generals that suggested that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia, with Sicily as merely the target of a feint, was also placed on the body. A British film of the story was released in 2021 starring Colin Firth, Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfadyen, Penelope Wilton, Johnny Flynn and Jason Isaacs.
A musical comedy version with book, music and lyrics by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts (known as the musical comedy troupe SpitLip) began life in 2019 and has finally received a well-deserved West End transfer to the Fortune Theatre where it has repeatedly been extended and is now booking until April 2024. The transferred production received 64 five star reviews, making it the best reviewed show in West End history. So does it deserve a 65th?
Well, with fantastic songs, an ingenious script, hilarious jokes and a simply outstanding cast even the most hard-nosed reviewer would be reluctant to give this exceptional theatrical experience anything else.
It is an anarchic show which is captivating, imaginative, funny, lyrically astute and possibly the best two and a half hours you can spend in a theatre. Holly Sumpton steals the show as Ewen Montagu who swaggers around the stage like God’s gift to spying and Jak Malone as Hester Leggett, MI5’s long-serving matronly secretary, is beautifully subtle. His rendition of Dear Bill, as Leggett dictates a ‘fake’ personal letter to be planted on the corpse, is utterly heartbreaking and elicits prolonged applause. It is the musical highlight of the evening.
Cumming is excellent as the goofy brains behind the operation whilst Geri Allen is reminiscent of Dawn French – impeccable comic timing and glorious facial expressions – whilst Claire-Marie Hall gives a lovely performance as Jean Leslie who is promoted to help out in anyway she can.
This is a glorious spoof musical which wonderfully mocks the British class system and the unjustified dominance of Old Etonians in a way that reminded me of Oh What a Lovely War. It is a triumphant production – need I say more? Just go for yourselves.
Reviewer: Patric Kearns
Photo: Matt Crockett