SpitLip’s “Operation Mincemeat” Musical Comedy Debuts in the West End After four years of performing, SpitLip’s adaptation of one of the Second World War’s most bizarre stories has finally arrived at the West End, providing ultimate proof of concept for the musical comedy’s ingenious ensemble. The satirical plot of the show focuses on the overbearing arrogance of the Eton-educated war “heroes” who developed a plan to trick Hitler into moving his troops out of Sicily before the planned European invasion.
In this adaptation, gender-swapped roles underline the satire, with Natasha Hodgson’s self-serving Ewen Montagu ignoring the warnings of his more assiduous colleagues. The show features tight physical comedy and perfectly choreographed Beyoncé pastiches, pathos, and dignifying songs for the dead man whose body was treated so cavalierly.
The Fringe Original’s
Transition to the Big Stage Rob Hastie directed the transition of the tight physical comedy from the Fringe to the big stage. Ben Stones created the new set, and there was panache and polish applied throughout the performance. Some scenes from the Fringe, such as the barnstorming dance number that opens the second half, were unimprovable. However, the transfer tested the strength of the performers’ voices.
The MVP of the five-strong cast was Jak Malone, who delivered effortless distinction to his vastly different roles, including that of a doughty submarine captain and a camp, creepy coroner. But it was his rendition of Dear Bill, performed as Hester Leggett, MI5’s long-serving matron figure, that stole the show.
The Joyful Smartness of the Musical Comedy
The real-life spy caper in which Britain needed to fool Hitler into moving his troops out of Sicily before the planned European invasion is well-documented from history books to Hollywood. The joyful smartness of SpitLip’s adaptation lies in its satirical focus on the overbearing arrogance (and sometimes ineptitude) of the Eton-educated war “heroes” who came up with the plan.
It is a show that can celebrate the unsung women of the secretarial pool while also allowing them to express their frustrations in a perfectly choreographed Beyoncé pastiche. The musical comedy provides pathos, too, among the gag-packed songs, including those dignifying the dead man whose body was treated so cavalierly.
Expectations for the Future
“Operation Mincemeat” will run at the Fortune Theatre in London until 19 August. The musical comedy’s performers now have the benefit of microphones, but its strength lies in the performers’ voices and the physical comedy that SpitLip perfected in the Fringe. With such a strong cast and a tight script, it’s no wonder that “Operation Mincemeat” has come this far. Whatever is next for this production, expect Jak Malone’s rendition of Dear Bill to continue breaking hearts for some time to come.