Watching Splitlip’s “Operation Mincemeat” a musical comedy interpretation of a factual, yet improbable, wartime event that ostensibly helped the allies win the war, was exhilarating and felt like an absolute privilege. It is the first time that I have been in the audience of a new piece of writing like this, that was so engaging and deserving of a wider audience that I feel sure it will be (if there is any justice in the world) the next big thing.
The company “Splitlip” comprising of David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts, wrote, composed and performed the piece, alongside the equally talented Jak Malone and Rory Furey-King. The book musical is based on factual events of a little known wartime coup, involving the deception of the Nazis with deliberate placement of the body of a homeless man on a Spanish beach, given a false identity with fabricated documents about his person leading the enemy to believe that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia, disguising the 1943 Allied invasion of Sicily.
When you think of a musical comedy based on the second world war, it immediately conjures images of “Springtime For Hitler” the spoof within Mel Brooks’ musical comedy “The Producers” and yet while it provided endless laughs and faultless comedic performances, this musical told a true story that educated the audience and moved us in equal measure. When Jak Malone (as Hester) sang “her” moving lament, “why did we meet in the middle of a war..what a silly thing for anyone to do” of her beau, it brought tears to my eyes as I thought of all those affected in wartime who knew they may never see their loved ones again.
Women played men and men played women in this musical, with well designed androgynous period costumes by Helen Coyston. The performances were such that you totally bought into the characters and were oblivious to the gender reversal. The actors played multiple roles with panache, truth, wit and flawless accents and I could empathise with them all.
The songs themselves were cleverly written, very well sung, memorable tunes that maintained their originality without being contrived, while giving a nod to many Broadway and West End greats in style. There were songs reminiscent (though not a copy) of Cabaret, Rent, Les Mis, Bugsy Malone, Chicago, Rocky Horror, Jekyll and Hyde and most definitely Hamilton… though (whisper it quietly) I preferred it to Hamilton as I found it easier to follow and heard every word.
One of my favourite television programmes is the BAFTA award winning “Horrible Histories “ with its comedic but informative take on moments in history and this reminded me of that, in style and performance, with a multi talented cast of storytelling musical actors, and I urge anyone with an interest in factual anecdotes, lesser known tales of wartime or indeed just an all round wonderfully entertaining night out, to beg, steal or borrow a ticket before this show becomes the sellout it deserves to be. Bravo.