Operation Mincemeat – A New Musical
Fortune Theatre, London, until August 18
The macabre true tale of how British intelligence – including future James Bond creator Ian Fleming – acquired a corpse during the second world war, equipped it with false papers and let it wash up on the Spanish coast to fool the Nazis that the Allied invasion of Sicily wasn’t going to happen has resulted in two deadly serious films. First, The Man Who Never Was with Clifton Webb in 1956, and the more recent Operation Mincemeat with Colin Firth.
It seemed a particularly preposterous, if not also tasteless, notion to then try to turn this of all stories into a musical comedy, but that is what David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts have managed to do with spectacularly successful results. Operation Mincemeat – A New Musical has acquired a certain cult status, having played to enthusiastic audiences at the New Diorama Theatre, Southwark Playhouse and the Riverside Studios and it’s now transferred to the Fortune Theatre in the West End.
It’s a very funny pastiche of a lot of old war films with Hodgson playing a man given to derring-do, if not detail, and Cumming as his geeky, if brilliant young friend. There are brilliantly funny turns along the way from Christian Andrews as Hester Leggett, an intelligence secretary starved of love, and Geri Allen as a gormless British diplomat based in Spain trying to carry out bewildering orders.
Shows in which the principals multi-task as writers and lyricists often end up being awfully self-indulgent, but it works well in this case with the show consistently funny and moving at a brisk pace under the direction of the appropriately named Robert Hastie.