Tag Archives: Geri Allen

Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat


Fortune Theatre

OPERATION MINCEMEAT at the Fortune Theatre


Operation Mincemeat

“hilarious from start to finish”


A little over four years ago, in an eighty-seater black box near Regents Park, there was a workshop presentation of a new musical about an obscure World War II intelligence mission centring around a homeless corpse. The joint collaborators were all in agreement that it was a bit of a crackpot idea, but the foursome ran with it. They called themselves ‘SpitLip’ and described themselves as ‘makers of big, dumb musicals’. Of the four (David Cummings, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts), Hagan was the only one not to take to the stage. Instead, Claire-Marie Hall and Jak Malone were pressganged into the cast for the show’s first outing.

And they are there still. They are the first to admit that they never thought ‘it would go as far as this’. Along the way, though, the backers and the audiences have begged to differ. From the New Diorama, to Southwark Playhouse, to Riverside Studios and finally washing ashore in the West End. In retrospect, its transfer was inevitable for this “unmissable, irresistible, audacious and adorable; intelligent and invigorating” show. The quotation is from my review at Southwark two years ago – and it still applies. In fact, I could take the lazy option and copy and paste chunks of the original review (I won’t). Little has changed. Director Rob Hastie has been brought in to smooth the transfer to the figurative ‘bigger stage’. In essence, the playing space itself is no larger than either Southwark or Riverside. Ben Stones’ set and costume design adds gloss, right through to the ‘Glitzy Finale’ and Mark Henderson’s lighting releases the show from its budgetary shackles, but let’s face it – the show was already beyond improvement.

By its very nature it appears to be constantly on the edge of falling apart; an intended shambolic veneer that reflects the ‘fact-is-stranger-than-fiction’ story it tells. The real-life plot is too far-fetched to have worked, carried out by the brash and privileged but inept MI5 agents. Hitler needed convincing that the allies were not going to invade Sicily. “Act as if you do when you don’t… act as if you will when you won’t”. The lyrics from just one of the overwhelmingly catchy numbers epitomise the double bluffs that cram the book and the songs. To achieve this, Charles Cholmondeley (Cumming) hatches the idea to dump a corpse off the coast Spain, dressed as an Air Force Officer and bearing false documents that outline British plans to advance on Sardinia. Ewen Montagu (Hodgson) latches on to the absurd plan convincing Colonel ‘Johnny’ Bevan (Roberts) of its unfailing potential. Or rather of the lack of alternative strategies. The Germans were fooled completely. That’s not a spoiler – it is historical fact. Ewen Montagu even wrote a film about it years later – ‘The Man Who Never Was’. Throwaway snippets like these are scattered throughout the show, delivered with the flawless eye for satire by the company. Each cast member multi-role the numerous and outlandish characters and, irrespective of gender, always convincing in their attention to detail. It is ludicrous, scandalous, overblown and absurd; occasionally bordering on tasteless (all compliments).

“Operation Mincemeat” is a delight – hilarious from start to finish. But ingenious too. The comedy conceals its hidden depths. Beneath the Pythonesque book and beguilingly eclectic score lies a profundity that breaks through if you let it. “Dear Bill” (sung by Malone as the secretary Hester Leggett) is a ripple of pure poignancy. A simple, aching moment of personal expression that veils a global anti-war poem.

SpitLip never thought ‘it would go as far as this’. They have all stayed on board though, and it’s now going to be a long operation. The West End run keeps extending. At some point they might have to hand over the reins. The unmistakable chemistry that burns through the company is part of the attraction. The bar is set high for prospective cast changes. It is intriguing; not just to see where “Operation Mincemeat” (still their debut show) goes from here, but to see what else is up their sleeves. But for now, they have conquered the West End. Mission accomplished. Success!



Reviewed on 19th July 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Matt Crockett




Operation Mincemeat Earlier Reviews:


Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | New Diorama Theatre | May 2019
Operation Mincemeat | ★★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | August 2021


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Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story

Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story


Pleasance Theatre



Diana: The Untold And Untrue Story

“nothing can prepare you for the exceptional creativity, insanity and uniqueness of this production and its talented cast”


Linus Karp, the jellicle founder of Awkward Productions, returns to the stage with his newest piece of chaotic nonsense – Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story. Diana, Princess of Wales, has gained an almost mythic status since her untimely death in 1997. The people’s princess’ crowded marriage and messy divorce with now-King Charles; her extensive humanitarian work; and her effortless style captivated the world population and Karp (in drag) shares a thoroughly imagined reimagining of her extraordinary life.

The hour-long extravaganza is a feast of audience participation and multi-media. Before the show begins, random audience members (including your reviewer!) are handed character cards to indicate that they will be up during the performance to read out a short script. Props – from a mitre to a corgi mask – and hilariously pointless characters such as A Landmine and Gay Fan #2 make these interactions thoroughly enjoyable.

As expected, Karp makes great use of PowerPoint and video throughout his play. Supporting characters such as The Queen (Geri Allen) and God (Zina Badran) appear in short video clips throughout the performance with Stage Manager Joseph Martin timing them perfectly to simulate conversation and amusing interruptions. The use of such lively happenings on the screen means the barren stage is barely noticeable though some jubilee bunting or decoration to that effect would not have been amiss. A life-size cardboard cut-out of Charles is about the only item that sits on stage and even he is removed halfway through.

Karp is strong throughout and his energy infectious. Allen gives it her all as The Queen; her scenes some of the funniest. It would have been enjoyable to see more of Badran as God, a character who is only introduced in the last quarter of the play. Martin, apart from his role of Stage Manager, does an exceptional job of ‘operating’ Camilla who is represented by a giant rag doll puppet with a demonic voice. A real highlight which makes for some outlandish fight and sex sequences.

The audience are treated to four iconic looks from Diana’s wardrobe including a baggy jumper and cycling shorts and the so-called ‘revenge dress’. The wedding dress with an extremely long train also features as does the repeating motif of the princess falling to the ground in anguish as often seen in her fictional portrayals. The Queen’s various looks are impressively accurate and again it would have been nice to see more from God who simply wore a sparkly top. Perhaps some Diana merchandise or a shirt that said, ‘I went to Heaven and all I got was this lousy t-shirt’?

There is no space for tragedy in this untrue retelling of Diana’s life and as her death grows closer it would be fair for the audience to have some concern about how this might be handled. Karp’s production is undeniably tasteless but there is great sympathy for her tragic end too. This is a fantastical and campy ‘what if’ made by and for the queer community whom Diana greatly supported and in turn has been immortalised as a gay icon. There are moments where some will certainly take offense, but the play is clearly devised and delivered with good humour and an awareness of its absurdity.

You may think that you will know what to expect in Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story based on its eponymous lead’s notoriety. But nothing can prepare you for the exceptional creativity, insanity and uniqueness of this production and its talented cast. The show – enjoyable in its own right – will also leave any audience member excited for whatever Karp decides to do next.


Reviewed on 10th November 2022

by Flora Doble

Photography by Dave Bird



Previously reviewed at this venue:



Express G&S | ★★★★ | June 2021
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | June 2021
Godot is a Woman | ★★★½ | June 2021
Catching Comets | ★★★★ | September 2021
Lights Out | ★★★★ | October 2021
Dog Show | ★★★★★ | December 2021
She Seeks Out Wool | ★★★★ | January 2022
Dirty Corset | ★★½ | April 2022



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