Operation Mincemeat at Fortune Theatre

The year is 1943 and the Allies are loosing the war. After searching for a plan they gamble it all on a corpse from a unknown person, a suitcase packed full of receipts and a submarine to transport the corpse. Together entitled Montagu, shy but intelligent Charles, ambitious Leslie, the matriarch Leggett, boss Bevan and a whole host of other characters work together to ensure that this secret mission, Operation Mincemeat is a success and that the Allies can win the war.

Full disclosure I saw Operation Mincemeat in its past life at Riverside Studio and loved it then. The show however has had a major glow up for its west end run and I am here for it! The bones of the show however are what makes it such a success. The plot is utterly bonkers but is very clever, laugh out loud funny and even tear jerking at moments. Whilst the story itself is bonkers the underlying themes are genuinely intriguing and hard hitting. We genuinely feel for the characters, at Leslie’s frustration at being pigeonholed into being a tea-girl because of her gender, Leggett’s poignant letter leaves the audience in stunned silence at her revelation, you will Charles to succeed with his plan and you pay your respects to the man whomever was in a moment of calm sincerity. Operation Mincemeat is a perfect example of how to get a message across with comedy.

The music has something for everyone, a Six Queen – you will love ‘All The Ladies,’ girl power number. A fan of Hamilton – Act As If is for you. A Producers stan – Das Ubermensch will be your vibe. Fisherman Friends traditionalists will love Sail, On Boys. This variation in style keeps the audience guessing what will happen next, not only with the zany plot but also stylistically in the music.

Whilst the 5 actors play a main role each they all multi roles throwing themselves into cameo roles as the show requires. Often a small accessory is added to signify this and doing so was choreographed so seamlessly into the show I often missed this change happening. I also loved that all of the performers played different genders and whilst it didn’t impact on the story it underlined the satire further.

The performers themselves are unflinching in their commitment to their respective roles, no matter how silly or absurd the ask and this is part of the reason the show works so well. I particularly adored David Cummings physicality as meek Charles Cholmondeley and the contrast he provided when moving to his other characters. Natasha Hodgson as the entitled and misogynistic Etonian, Ewan Montagu was also suitably odious at the same time as being incredibly watchable. Understudy Christian Andrews took on the role of Hester Leggett, one of the more serious roles who managed to move us all during the most emotional number of the show yet moments later appear on stage in a sequinned jacket as a corrupt coroner.

Zoe Roberts played Johnny Bevan whose facial expressions alone ensured the audience were laughing with her as well as a bumbling ex Pa, Haselden stationed in Spain during the war. Claire-Marie Hall who played Jean Leslie, who as the straight woman throughout most of the show risked getting overlooked but her energy ensured that this did not happen. Despite all of these characters being larger than life Cummings, Hodgson, Andrews, Roberts and Hall ensure that they all remain human with elements of the characters that are either relatable or recognisable. Whilst all of the cast are very strong individually the best moments are when they are working as an ensemble and the show really is an ensemble piece.

As I had seen the show and loved it at a smaller venue I was intrigued how they were going to scale up Operation Mincemeat for a West End venue whilst still retaining its charm. The glow up was perfectly done with the set for the majority of the time appearing as if it was in an operations room during the war but at the key moment the set transforms and adds perfectly to the ridiculous vibe of this show. Importantly however the set facilities the fast paced nature of the show and ensures that one of this is lost. The lighting has also levelled up and adds extra layers of detail that simply wasn’t possible previously.

A question that I often get asked by those visiting London is ‘What show should I see?’ Well from now until February my answer is going to be clear….Operation Mincemeat. Home grown British talent with a very British sense of humour, wrapped up with intelligent satire and a wonderful cast …. as the song says….’God That’s Brilliant.’

Operation Mincemeat is booking until February 2024 at Fortune Theatre. To find out more and book tickets visit their website.

If you like this review you might also like my review of Ride at Southwark Playhouse, The SpongeBob Musical and Back To The Future

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