Operation Mincemeat: the fringe hit musical lands in the West End at last

Operation Mincemeat will open at the Fortune Theatre in 2023 (Avalon/SpitLip.)
Operation Mincemeat will open at the Fortune Theatre in 2023 (Avalon/SpitLip.)

The fringe theatre hit Operation Mincemeat will be transferring to the West End next year, following its previous run at Riverside Studios, Southwark Playhouse and the New Diorama Theatre.

The critically acclaimed production, created by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts, won The Stage Debut award for Best Composer/Lyricist, the Off-West End award for Best Company Ensemble and was listed in the Observer’s Top 10 shows of the year.

The show was commissioned by New Diorama Theatre and co-commissioned by The Lowry, and was supported by the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat with additional support from Avalon.

Here’s everything you need to know about this riotous wartime comedy musical.

When is it on?

Previews of the production will begin on March 29, 2023, followed by an 8-week run beginning on May 9. It will run eight shows a week, starting at 7.30pm, Monday to Wednesday, 8pm Thursday to Saturday, with two matinees, on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 3pm.

Where will it be?

It will be at the Fortune Theatre in the West End. The nearest tube station is Covent Garden.

Ticket prices range from £19.50 to £79.50.

What’s it about?

The plot follows two real-life intelligence officers in WWII, Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu, and their team, who hatched a risky and elaborate plan to convince Germany that Allied Forces were planning on invading Greece and Sardinia rather than the strategically crucial Sicily, which would open up the Mediterranean to Allied shipping.

As part of the plan, named Operation Mincemeat, forged documents, including clues to an invented identity, were to be planted on a dead body, which would then be released into Spanish waters with the expectation that when it washed up, information would filter through, via the many German spies in the country, to the German high command.

The false information did indeed make it to Hitler’s desk and, due to the extraordinary attention to detail of the team behind the deception, was believed – resulting in much German artillery, boats and tanks being deployed to defend Greece, Sardina and the Balkans, with even a large number of aircraft that had been on Sicily being moved.

Allied forces then invaded Sicily on July 10, 1943, catching the Nazi completely by surprise.

The body used in the operation was identified many years later as that of Glyndwr Michael, a young man of 34 who was homeless at the time of his death. He had ingested rat poison, possibly due to hunger, as it was smeared on bread to attract the animals.

After the military operation, Michael’s body was buried with full military honours in Huelva, Spain, under his assumed name of Major William Martin. Following the revelation of his true identity, an inscription was added to the gravestone honouring Michael.


What have the critics said?

The Standard’s chief theatre critic Nick Curtis called the show “deliciously rackety” and noted that “Donnacadh O’Briain’s direction and Jenny Arnold’s choreography are far more sophisticated than the loose feel of the show suggests”.

Suzi Feay from Financial Times called it “a dazzling series of gender-switching roles… a Beyoncé-esque assertion of female power” and described the young cast as “excellent”.

Neil Norman from The Daily Mirror said it was “a miraculous musical that tells the entire story in a kind of accelerated farce that is part Mel Brooks, part SIX, part Hamilton with a side order of One Man, Two Guvnors”

David Benedict from Variety said: “this is the musical you didn’t know you needed… a little show with a very big future.”

How else the story has been told?

The fascinating story of Operation Mincemeat was told in detail in Ben Macintyre’s 2010 book Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of WWII. It was made into a 2021 film of the same, unimprovable name, which starred Colin Firth and Matthew Mcfadyen as Montagu and Cholmondeley, to positive reviews.

The story was also explored in the 1956 film The Man Who Never Was, based on Ewen Montagu’s book, starring Stephen Boyd and Clifton Webb.

Operation Mincemeat is presented in the West End by Avalon in association with SpitLip