Splendid Musical Satire of Operation Mincemeat

 

“Will It fool the Germans?”

Claire-Marie Hall as Jean Leslie, Natasha Hodgson as Ewan Montagu, David Cumming as Charles Cholmondeley, Zoë Roberts as Johnny Bevan and Jak Malone as Hester Leggett (Photo: Avalon)

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!  

Production Notes

Operation Mincemeat

Written by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts

Directed by Donnacadh O’Briain

Cast

Starring:

David Cumming

Claire-Marie Hall

Natasha Hodgson

Jak Malone

Zoe Roberts

Creatives

Director: Donnacadh O’Briain

Designer: Helen Coyston

Lighting Designer: Sherry Coenen

Sound Designer: Mike Walker

Choreographer: Jenny Arnold

A Spit Lip Production

Information

Running Time: Two hours 30 minutes with an intercval

Closed at Southwark 19th February 2022

Address: 

Southwark Playhouse

Newington Causeway

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