Operation Mincemeat: the macabre yet tender musical comedy we all need
Corpses, conspiracies and constant laughs, Operation Mincemeat is a brilliant new addition to the West End. Now showing for a limited run at the Fortune Theatre, here’s everything you need to know.
God, that’s brilliant! This week, the RadioTimes.com team had the pleasure of seeing an early preview of Operation Mincemeat the musical. A show that’s born to lead, this production tells the story of the cunning scheme that helped Britain to victory in World War II, where it turns out all they needed was a few great minds and a corpse…
Operation Mincemeat is making its West End debut this summer for a limited run. Taking place at the historic but small Fortune Theatre, the performances are anything but pocket-sized as the cast bring out all the stops in sets, singing and satire.
The show features a cast of five and was created by three of its actors: Natasha Hodgson, David Cumming and Zoë Roberts, who were then later joined by Jak Malone and Claire-Marie Hall. Together, they began Operation Mincemeat in 2019 at the New Diorama Theatre, before going on to have runs at the Southwark Playhouse and Riverside Studios from 2020 to 2022.
The play has already created a massive buzz by winning the Stage Debut Award for Best Composer/Lyricist and the Off-West End Award for Best Musical Production and Best Company Ensemble. It was also named in The Observer’s Top 10 shows of the year and has earned dozens of five-star reviews since it began.
Tickets for Operation Mincemeat are on sale now, and before we go on to tell you all about prices, dates, and how to get your hands on the best seats, allow us to stop and say that the musical is well worth seeing. Clever, funny and riveting, this bizarre comedy has you laughing at the jokes, interested at the history, and strangely filled with patriotic pride.
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So, now we’ve given you the pitch, here’s what you need to know.
What is Operation Mincemeat about?
Picture this: it’s 1943 and we are in the midst of the Second World War. Britain is planning an invasion of Sicily, but to do that it needs Germany to move its troops off the island and over to Sardinia instead. To convince them of this, the “men who hold the reins” at MI5 – Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley – decide to put fake invasion plans on the corpse of an Allied pilot and float it out to sea, and they call it Operation Mincemeat.
A true story about a macabre but genius scheme, Operation Mincemeat also became a film in 2022 starring the likes of Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen. But where the movie was more of an austere drama, the West End musical instead lands on being an eccentric romp that brings wartime sadness into a world of colour, exaggerated accents and British quirks.
In short, it’s really good fun.
The show pokes fun at just about everyone, from cockneys to the upper class, and wastes no time in satirising the ‘brave’ men behind the scenes at the government who feel they’re the ones really putting in the effort to win the war. The opening two songs especially, Born To Lead and God That’s Brilliant, do a great job of establishing these ‘great minds’ whose only plan is to somehow kill Hitler when he’s on a train.
Throughout the show, every song becomes a wild ride with lighting, choreography and set design constantly in motion – Making a Man and the Glitzy Finale in particular can sometimes make you feel like you’re trapped in a fever dream. While they’re all enjoyable, some tracks do feel a bit unnecessary and as if they’re trying to pad out the story, more so in the second half.
But really, any tiny flaw is made up for by the brilliant cast, who swap role and gender seamlessly and never miss a beat in both humour and song. Almost every joke landed and the mix of over-the-top and subtle jokes was never jarring.
Yet alongside the laughs, the play also managed to be genuinely touching and never let you forget the casualties of war. For me, the standout was Jak Malone, who played Hester Leggett and sang Dear Bill in one of the most heartfelt moments in the show. Plus, in the last few moments all the lavish set design and crazy jokes are swapped for an utterly profound message of remembrance. In the end you feel entertained, educated and moved – what more could you want from a musical?
Which West End theatre is Operation Mincemeat in?
Operation Mincemeat is taking place at the Fortune Theatre, right in the heart of London’s West End. If you’re a theatre buff, then you’ll know that this stage was the previous home of the classic horror The Woman in Black, which recently ended a 33-year stint, making it the second longest-running show in West End history.
The theatre sits on Russell Street with Covent Garden as its nearest underground station, which you can get to via the Piccadilly line. However, if you don’t fancy waiting for the achingly slow lift, you can also take an eight-minute walk from Holborn (Central and Piccadilly lines).
The Fortune Theatre doesn’t have a lift but staff are on hand to make it wheelchair accessible. For wheelchair users, the best seats to book are in the Dress Circle, as there are only seven steps up to that tier and sections can be removed if you are unable to transfer to a seat.
How long is Operation Mincemeat on the West End for?
Previews for Operation Mincemeat started on Wednesday 29th March, with the first official show set to open on Tuesday 9th May. The performances will then run for 14 weeks until Saturday 19th August.
The shows are taking place every Monday to Wednesday at 7:30pm and on Thursday to Saturday at 8pm, while there will also be 3pm matinee shows on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
How much do Operation Mincemeat tickets cost?
Prices for Operation Mincemeat start at £35 and go up to £79.50 depending on the day you book and where you sit. It’s worth noting that, as the theatre is small, you’re never too far from the action and are pretty much guaranteed a good view, so think carefully if you want to splash out on expensive seating.
There’s plenty of availability left for the £35 tickets, but we recommend booking a mid-week show if you want to ensure a lower price – the Saturday performances are always the first to sell out. The theatre is also running discounts for bigger groups, with prices starting at £19.50 each for 30+ people.
How to get Operation Mincemeat tickets
If we’ve persuaded you to see Operation Mincemeat, and for King and country we think you should, then head on over to ATG Tickets where tickets are on sale now.
Most shows still have good availability but you don’t want to leave it too late, because come July it will be gone.