I saw this evolving show for the first time at the New Diorama last summer, and at the end of year classed it as one of the best productions I saw on the 2019 London fringe. It’s the SpitLip company’s first show!
Now it transfers to the Southwark Playhouse’s Little space, and has undergone several refinements, deletions and additions. But worry not, it’s still a triumph from start to finish and hugely enjoyable, and the audience yesterday afternoon loved it.
The talented cast of 2019 are still present with one exception – Claire-Marie Hall (last seen by me in the Terror at the Sweetshop showcase) replaces Rory Furey-King as Jean. She plays the role very differently but slots into the company chemistry effortlessly.
There are lots of characters in Operation Mincemeat, which is based on a true story of subterfuge which helped turn the war. The five key characters though are Montagu, Cholmondeley, Hester, Jean and their boss Bevan. Montagu and Bevan are played by women (Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts). Hester is played by a man (the fabulous Jak Malone, one of my top performers of 2019).
It’s a musical, and several new songs have been added this time around. Many are amusing but in what is still the high point of the show for me, middle-aged secretary Hester crafts a love letter for the cause which starts you smiling and leaves you deeply moved.
Characterisations have generally evolved since the first version of the show, and the opening now feels stronger and tighter. David Cumming’s Cholmondeley remains a comic tour-de-force but there seems more to him now, and even Montagu’s vanity shows a softer core.
The aim is to continue to make the show “bigger and better” according to creators SpitLip – three of which act in the show (Cumming, Hodgson and Roberts). With at least twenty characters in minor roles, there’s scope to go in lots of different directions. I’m intrigued to see what’s next for the Mincemeat team.
With the definite makings, quite rightly, of a cult hit, Operation Mincemeat looks set to flourish and it returns in a third version to the Southwark’s Large space in May. I recommend you book early.
More about SpitLip – @spitlip on Twitter
LouReviews paid for a ticket to see Operation Mincemeat.