Tag Archives: Donnacadh O’Briain

Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

★★★★★

Southwark Playhouse

Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat

Southwark Playhouse

Reviewed – 18th August 2021

★★★★★

 

“simply unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating.”

 

Midway through “Operation Mincemeat”, the musical from Spitlip, one of the characters quips that ‘you couldn’t write this!’. Based on true events, it embodies the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction adage. However, there is nothing strange about the truth that this show is unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating. That reads like the closing tagline of a review, so I’m wondering where I can go from here. On a Musical Development timeline, “Operation Mincemeat” is still a fairly young sapling, having premiered at the New Diorama Theatre only in 2019. They, too, must be asking where they can go from here. Because quite simply put, it’s already there! It’s got it all.

Based on the Allied invasion of Sicily in the Second World War, it tells the story of how two members of the British intelligence service managed to deceive Hitler by (dubiously and possibly illegally) obtaining the corpse of a Welsh tramp who died eating rat poison, dressing him up as an officer, planting false documents in a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist, and dropping him into the waters off the southern coast of Spain. The following morning it was dredged up by a fisherman. Although Spain was technically neutral, the documents still found their way into German hands. These documents detailed the Allies’ plans to invade Sardinia, when in fact it was Sicily all along. The Germans fell for it hook, line and sinker and, to cut a long story short, the liberation gathered speed. Yes – you couldn’t write it!

Outlandish as it is, SpitLip manage to embellish it further with a goldmine of quirky ideas, characters and scenarios, beautifully and joyously crafted songs, more laughs than you can really handle in one evening and even the odd, serious message thrown in for good measure. The multi rolling, gender-blind ensemble adopt a host of personalities amid a whirlwind of scenes and songs. The score is eclectic, encompassing rap, rock, swing, sea shanties, dance, dubstep, hip-hop and ballads to name a few; with leitmotifs recurring in perfect rhythm to the showstopping numbers that drive the show.

The writing and composing credits are attributed to SpitLip, which comprises David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoe Roberts. Cumming, Hodgson and Roberts make up the cast joined by Claire-Marie Hall and Jak Malone. I could exceed my wordcount reeling off the individual attributes of each cast member but, in truth, none needs to be singled out. Hagan, the Musical Director, is on keys with Ellen O’Reilly on bass and synth bass and Lewis Jenkins on drums and percussion. It would be a crime not to mention Sherry Coenen’s lighting and Mike Walker’s sound design. This is a show where each ingredient (not forgetting Jenny Arnold’s choreography and Helen Coyston’s costume) blends together to produce the perfect concoction. With parts this great it’s hard for the sum to be greater – but it manages.

The real-life Operation Mincemeat was a success. One that changed the course of history. Although Spitlip’s “Operation Mincemeat” probably won’t change the world, it will make its mark in the world of musicals. Every note, sung or spoken, in this show serves a purpose. Even the throwaway adlibs and asides. I’ve already used up my closing tagline, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat. “Operation Mincemeat” is simply unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating. I wish I had a few more hundred words to play with here, but if you want the detail, just go and see it. It’s unmissable. Did I say that already…?

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Matt Crockett

 


Operation Mincemeat

Southwark Playhouse until 18th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue this year:
You Are Here | ★★★★ | May 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | June 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva
★★★★★

Ovalhouse

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself

Ovalhouse

Reviewed – 13th May 2019

★★★★★

 

“will no doubt provide every viewer with a new perspective on the world”

 

Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself is a frank exploration of female sexuality, self-love and patriarchal expectations directed by Donnacadh O’Briain. Brain/Ego (Bella Heesom) and Clitoris/Appetite (Sara Alexander) battle it out for top spot in the female protagonist’s sex life while the former slowly beats the second into societal submission. The clitoris does not understand why she is seen as dirty and disgusting while the brain also often struggles to comprehend the flawed cultural logic she applies to her own sexual desire.

The play explores snippets of the young woman’s sexual growth from discovering masturbation to entering an unfulfilling relationship with a man who sees her as nothing more than a sex object. The protagonist learns that her sexuality and pleasure are embarrassing at a young age when schoolboys laugh at the idea of performing oral sex on a girl. Familiar phrases about female sexuality periodically flash up on a screen at the back of the stage – Virginity is precious. Vaginas are dirty. Sex is for men.

The play is interspersed with scenes of graceful movement (Liz Ranken) in which Alexander nudges and bites at Heesom as if a lioness. This theme is expanded in a meditation led by Alexander during the show where she uses the raw animalism and beauty of the lioness as an analogy for female sexuality. The screen at the back of the stage too shows the face of a lioness to emphasise this.

After the performance, Heesom and Alexander invite the audience to attend an open discussion to reflect on the issues raised in the play. The experiences enacted in the piece are revealed to be near universal amongst the female audience from being told vaginas smell like fish to feeling the need to satisfy a partner on a special occasion. Heesom and Alexander handle the group conversation with great care and sensitivity, and it is an appreciated and moving addition to the show.

The set (Elizabeth Harper) is well considered and helps to emphasise how natural female sexuality is. Heesom and Alexander move around a beautiful (lady) garden with flowers and plants hanging from the ceiling. The screen shows animated flowers growing and dying to reflect the revelations made on stage. The ground is covered in dark pebbles and a rectangular pool of water runs along the back of the stage. A wooden swing hangs in the back-left corner and reminds the audience that these harmful ideas about female sexuality are fed to us since childhood.

Heesom and Alexander are both stars and their chemistry is incredible. The two women move effortlessly between witty back and forth as Brain and Clitoris to sensual moments wrestling on the ground. Heesom’s final speech as the societally battered Clitoris is particularly powerful as she strips off her clothes and attacks the patriarchal constructs that have made female sexuality shameful. Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself will no doubt provide every viewer with a new perspective on the world.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by David Monteith-Hodge

 

Ovalhouse

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself

Ovalhouse until 26th May

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Medea Electronica | ★★★ | January 2018
Random Selfies | ★★★ | March 2018
This Restless State | ★★★ | March 2018
Standard:Elite | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Austerity & Me | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Croydon Avengers | ★★★ | June 2018
Undersong | ★★★★★ | June 2018
A Pocketful of Bread | ★★★ | September 2018

 

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