“Operation Mincemeat” – Absolutely Brilliant

Many, many hours later, here are finally my thoughts (and praise) for “Operation Mincemeat”, the first musical written, composed and performed by Spitlip. I blame the Eurovision Song Contest for the delay and the fact, that I spent a lot of time last night (and today) on Spitlips’s Soundcloud and Youtube to listen to the available songs over and over again. I also researched some of the events and persons the whole story was about. And then to complicate my schedule, early this morning Frank Turner announced he’ll bring Lost Evenings IV to Berlin next year. So of course I had to discuss plans with my friends and find suitable and affordable rooms and… ARGH! Lost Evenings 2020 in Berlin! This is so incredibly cool!

But now… Spitlip and “Operation Mincemeat”. The musical is based on a true story of, well… “Operation Mincemeat” and while they might have taken some artistic liberty in regards to the characters and their relationships with each other, the fact remains, that this absolutely insane sounding deception operation actually did happen in 1943 and it did contribute to the Allied victory in WWII.

I should maybe say, that I usually don’t write elaborated reviews of any kind of entertainment. The one or other Frank Turner ging notwithstanding. So, this here is an audience fan account of the experience. I would never have heard of this project nor gone to see it, if one of my favourite artists – Felix Hagan – wasn’t involved and hadn’t been talking about it for a while. I’m a big fan of the ‘musical-flavoured’ big, powerful, glamorous tunes he’s been writing for Felix Hagan & the Family. And with the music for this epic 2 hour long musical he and his fellow writers have gone all out. It has everything from sea-shanty to heartbreaking love song, from feminist powerful Spice Girly pop and a power ballad full of self-doubt (and don’t I know that feeling, so this one absolutely hit home) to the big showtune celebrating extravagance in life in spite or more exact because of the ongoing war. The music overall was amazing and so were the lyrics. I was impressed by the wit and emotions and the pace of it all. But of course they didn’t just sing and dance, there was a story to tell and scenes to act out and the script was the right mix of hilarity and introspection, of coming-of-age story and social commentary. And often, oh so very funny.

For this musical the three acting members of Spitlip – Natasha Hodgson, Zoe Roberts and David Cumming – were joined by two more actors: Rory Furey-King and Jak Malone and all five people on stage were absolutely brilliant: all with great voices and such a wide range of acting skills. Because even though they each played one main character, they also portrayed many more throughout this whole story, whenever someone other than the five main characters needed to make an appearance. It was an impressive whirlwind, which was helped along by the outstanding set and costume design from Helen Coyston. The way in which the simple stage changed from one set to another and equally the actors switched roles from pathologist to night club singer to taciturn Scottish submariner and back again in mere seconds was absolutely fascinating to watch.

I have to admit it took me a few moments to really get accustomed to the switched gender roles in this play, where two of the main male characters – Montagu and Bevan – were played by women and one of the female main characters – Hester – played by a man. Yes, that sounds weird at first, but after the first few scenes I didn’t notice it anymore, especially once the whole cast convincingly started playing so many more characters of either gender. And it’s called acting for a reason, right?

I don’t really want to single out any members of this cast, because they were all so good. But, I just feel that I need to give two special shout-outs and I hope the remaining three forgive me. I really, really enjoyed Tash’s performance in this. I might be biased, because of course I know and love her from “Felix Hagan & the Family”, where she can’t always show what kind of great voice she has; being a ‘background’ *g* singer and all. The second shout-out needs to go to Jak Malone, for his absolute tear-jerking performance in the “love letter” scene. Yeah, I did sniffle a bit and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Such a great act. And also… so wonderful, moving lyrics. Maybe I should also give an small shout-out to ‘Nancy’ for making all those wonderful little notes :-)

Summed up: I absolutely enjoyed this afternoon and while I’m pretty biased, because… Felix! and Tash!… I left the theatre under the impression that the rest of the audience enjoyed it just as much. I’m so happy for this new and small musical troupe that it seems to be going well. Fingers crossed! I’m also happy that we got the chance to tell them all in person after the show, because they’ve pulled off something amazing here and they all seemed genuinely humbled to hear how much we had enjoyed it. So I was glad I told them.

And if any of you find yourself in London in the next couple of weeks, you should definitely  check them out! They’ll be at the New Diorama until Mid-June. Long enough time even to plan a trip to London from somewhere else in the country I’d say :-)

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