In a more tasteful style of The Producers, and more Mischief with chorus lines and sequins, Operation Mincemeat musicalises Ben Mcintyre’s book and ultimately history.
With all the characters delivered by a very small cast, the show fizzes with energy and zest. Overall it’s done very well with minimal era suggestive props, a clever use of hair up (for everyone) and lots of shirts, ties and braces. Plus singing Cockneys (lost from Mary Poppins) as a chorus and surprise Ian Fleming moments — yes Bond fans, this musical is here for you too.
Mocking the class structures of the time (and perhaps today), plus embedded sexism, the show does really well at balancing the fine line between truth and humour, without being heavy handed. If you love a laugh, this show is for you. If you want to see Winston Churchill not being toppled, this show is here for you too.
It’s an audacious plan — like its material — and it really works. The only jarring moment is the second act which opens with twerking Nazis as a group act. Whilst I get that it’s trying to ride on the World War Two tradition of laughing at the enemy, it’s tasteless and uncomfortable, particularly as people are whooping along. I think the problem is that they open the second act, and over the thumping bass beat, it’s hard to hear what they’re actually singing about — I could only make out that they didn’t like democracy very much. Given that anti-Semitism and Fascism is on the rise again, especially within the UK, this deserves a more serious and challenging treatment, and is the only real weakness in the show. How glad I was when we were pulled back into ourselves and challenged about ‘what side we were on?’ (I applauded, it was true — we had been enjoying the Nazi cabaret).
Otherwise, this is a joyous, action packed adventure, with moving tributes to the unsung women administrators and coders, the submarine crew and ultimately to the man himself at the centre of the mission. Some brilliant gags with old fashioned telephones and hats, and I’m really glad I won the ticket lottery to be able to see it all so clearly for a much cheaper price than usual! The ‘putting on a show’ ending is terrific! Busby Berkeley eat your heart out!