Splendid Musical Satire of Operation Mincemeat
“Will It fool the Germans?”
Just as the mince pies are over for another year, comes this brilliantly inventive and witty new musical about The Man Who Never Was from Spit Lip. The major remake of the film is due out in March 2022 with Colin Firth and Kelly Macdonald. Southwark Playhouse is small but mighty as it trounces many larger musical theatres in the West End with this splendid show of spies and subterfuge.
The show has the feel of a satirical musical revue as a cast of five take on and convince in multiple roles and as both genders, with dialogue as well as songs. The setting is MI6 at the War Office in 1943 and the task is how to fool Hitler into thinking the Allied Forces will land elsewhere than Sicily. It is a true story which fascinated my mother in the 1956 original film and is a wonderful example of British ingenuity and success.
The great minds of armed forces intelligence are summoned to the War Office to produce alternative ideas about defeating Hitler. The cast of five are clad in dark suits some with pin striped trousers and, as they contemplate military deception, they simultaneously switch to aviator dark glasses. This jolly show is full of small details which will make you laugh at their audacity.
Leading the brains is the commanding officer, Ewan Montagu (Natasha Hodgson) who together with Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondeley (David Cumming) plots to dress a corpse as a British officer to be washed up on the coast of Spain. The corpse will have a briefcase chained to his wrist with Allied invasion plans for Greece. A new identity and back story is manufactured for the officer with love letters from a girlfriend, theatre tickets and receipts for jewellery. They will rely on Franco’s forces to find the corpse and pass to the Germans for the intended intelligence coup.
The cast are so full of energy and verve. One number “Ladies, Time to Move Up!” about female clerks taking over roles vacated by serving servicemen has most of the cast in stockings and high heels, and what fine pins David Cumming has! Everyone can sing and act pastiche. Zoë Roberts is soundly gung ho and as the young Ian Fleming has plenty of Bond based ideas to contribute. Jak Malone is often touching as the lonely secretary Hester. Natasha Hodgson shows Montagu’s leadership qualities and David Cumming is zany as the odd ball genius Cholmondeley with his myriad facial expressions. Claire-Marie Hall is Jean Leslie with the beautiful singing voice
Jenny Arnold’s choreography is very slick and polished and I loved the Nazi boy band number. Helen Coyston’s simple set has red vertical lines and five lined up, vintage telephones with unlimited cords to tie everyone up in. The costume changes are clever and fast. The band sit on the side out of view. The music incorporates different styles and genres and the whole runs at an exemplary pace.
Although first seen in 2019 at the New Diorama, the writers, three of whom are in the show, David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts (Kill the Beast) work on it and keep everything fresh. Another fun-filled five star show from Theatrevibe, the site that doesn’t do stars!
Written by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts
Directed by Donnacadh O’Briain
Director: Donnacadh O’Briain
Designer: Helen Coyston
Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenen
Sound Designer: Mike Walker
Choreographer: Jenny Arnold
A Spit Lip Production
Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes
with an interval
Closed at Southwark 19th February 2022
London SE1 6BD
Rail/Tube: Elephant and Castle
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge
at the Southwark Playhouse
on 18th January 2022
Reopened at Riverside Studios Hammersmith
28th April to 9th July 2022
Now booking at the Fortune Theatre
until 15th June 2024