We’re already big fans of new musical Operation Mincemeat – we reviewed its 2021 run at the Southwark Playhouse and its 2022 stint at the Riverside Studios, awarding the show a perfect score both times. We were ridiculously excited when its West End debut was announced, and we interviewed the creative team behind the show, SpitLip, earlier this year, ahead of previews.
Operation Mincemeat has now opened at London’s Fortune Theatre, which is a larger space than we’ve seen it set in before, but it’s still a relatively cosy venue affording the production an intimate feel. It tells the real-life story of Operation Mincemeat, an audacious deception strategy devised by MI5 during the Second World War to throw Hitler and his forces off course; during the show, we’re introduced to the key players who worked behind the scenes to make it all happen.
What’s to say about this production that we haven’t previously said? Well, there are a handful of tweaks, but at its core this remains the same musical we completely fell in love with a couple of years ago. It’s the same ensemble of five actors seamlessly switching between roles to tell multiple stories in parallel; it’s the same you-couldn’t-write-it remarkable true tale being told; the hit rate of the jokes is incredible; and the songs, oh, what songs they are! Amongst a collection of absolute bangers, it’s bittersweet ballad Dear Bill, delivered devastatingly by Jak Malone as heartbroken office clerk Hester, that has now become the West End’s most unexpected showstopper. As far as songwriting goes, this one’s pretty much flawless.
There are a few adjustments for the West End debut. A smattering of entertaining new one-liners are deployed here and there, and the musical arrangements are more ambitious than they were previously. Visually the production has had an upgrade – while the set is still quite simple, there are a handful of additions and they’re utilised effectively. Everything just feels a bit bolder and a bit slicker – lighting and sound have both had noticeable upgrades, most obviously during the show’s extremely silly glitzy finale – but we don’t want to say anything that may spoil that.
We could keep on singing Operation Mincemeat’s praises over and over – if it wasn’t abundantly clear, we adore this show. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – this is an absolute must-see. It has the perfect blend of everything we want from a musical – a delightfully witty sense of humour, yet with real heart, real soul; there’s a beautiful, moving, very human side to this story; and the songs are genuinely wonderful – the musical’s army of dedicated fans are sure to be excited for the cast recording, which will be released this week.
This feels like the definitive version of Operation Mincemeat: it has successfully transferred to the West End, with a handful of improvements, while managing to retain its original charm which made us fall in love with it to begin with. Inventive, creative, and endlessly enjoyable – we can’t recommend this show enough. If you’ve not seen it, do yourself a favour and pick up a ticket!
GAY TIMES gives Operation Mincemeat – 5/5
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