Beginning at the New Diorama Theatre in 2019, Operation Mincemeat has been on quite the journey, with multiple sold-out runs at Southwark Playhouse, and a run at Riverside Studios last summer, the show has finally made its way to a West End stage.

Credit: Matt Crockett

Musicals based around historical figures and events have surged in popularity recently, yet this show feels entirely unique. Not to be confused with the movie starring Colin Firth, but based on the same mission, SpitLip’s musical depicts the British deception operation conceived by Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu during World War II. 

The script written by SpitLip (David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts) is jam-packed with witty lines, hysterical one-liners, and so many jokes you’ll probably miss some of them – I’m certain that a repeat viewing would have you laughing at completely different moments which you missed first time round. The concept and the script are unbelievably clever, and their character work is exceptional; each character is distinctive and fully formed. 

Across the board, the performances are nuanced and flawless, each cast member morphs into a theatrical chameleon (no newts or maggots here), seamlessly transitioning between roles within seconds, and performing with different accents and mannerisms to allowing the audience to know exactly who everyone is portraying throughout. Cumming brings an endearing bashfulness to his portrayal of Cholmondeley, Roberts displays impeccable comedic timing and delivery, Jak Malone has the most tender and heartfelt moment within the show in ‘Dear Bill’, and Claire-Marie Hall is a ball of energy. But the spotlight is stolen by Hodgson (Ewen Montagu) whenever she appears on stage, oozing charm and charisma, she’s hysterically funny throughout, and her vocals are stunning. 

Robert Hastie’s direction allows the show, which clocks in at 2 hours 20 minutes, to fly by. The costume and scene changes are slick, with you wondering just how they pull them off, the cast is on stage for the majority of the run time, and when they are not they leave through one door and seemingly immediately reenter through another one. 

Credit: Matt Crockett

The score is wonderfully varied, with both catchy songs and more tender ones incorporated; ‘Just For Tonight’ ends Act One and ensures you want to return for more. They have an incredible opening to Act Two with ‘Das Übermensch’ a song which is so much fun and feels incredibly fresh, and then there is ‘A Glitzy Finale’ which does exactly what it says on the tin. There were some sound issues throughout, especially during the songs, as at times it was difficult to make out the lyrics sung.

Although the choreography by Jenny Arnold lacks complexity and features many a box step, it fits the style of the show splendidly, perfectly complementing the score and the personalities of the characters. 

I saw the show last year at Riverside and the only note I had was that the show needed a bigger stage, a bigger budget and to be performed on a grander scale, and that is exactly what is delivered this time around. With lighting, costumes, staging, props, and some glitzy touches, this show has never been better, it’s retained its charm and huge heart from its fringe roots, despite being performed in a main house – the size of the Fortune Theatre ensures the show still feels intimate. Somehow, SpitLip has found a perfect balance of the show feeling new, fresh, and exciting, yet already having the feel of a timeless, classic musical. 

Mission Complete: Operation Mincemeat is the wittiest, most exciting, and most fun show in the West End right now. It’s impossible not to love this show, it’s incredibly clever and joyous to watch. If you can only see one show in London this year, it should be this one.

Some shows will follow, but Operation Mincemeat was born to lead. 

Colin Firth could never.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Operation Mincemeat is on at the Fortune Theatre until the 19th of August 2023. Tickets and info here!

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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