Tag Archives: Fortune Theatre

“Operation Mincemeat” at the Fortune Theatre

Having started at the New Diorama Theatre, and developed at Southwark Playhouse, this show’s success in the West End is sure to warm the hearts of theatre lovers. A small show that has taken the town by storm is always fantastic. Apparently, Operation Mincemeat has a record number of stars from reviewers… and I’m happy to add another five.

With book, music and lyrics by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha Hodgson and Zoë Roberts, the first key to success is surely the great story. Operation Mincemeat was a military intelligence plan to misdirect Hitler during World War II that, although based on real events, is truly unbelievable. The show is action-packed and exciting but told with humour: there are some damn good jokes here.

The music and lyrics are, mostly, funny, and very, very, smart. There’s a mix of styles for fun, but the score is overall nostalgic – and cleverly so. Not that it is a period piece (if there’s a gag to be had, they go for it). While it is particularly British, the music doesn’t just remind you of the 1940s. There are nods to music hall tradition and G&S. Many of the numbers are ambitious, and I don’t think there’s a bad one here.

As to the cast, the production only has five members including Cumming, Hodgson and Roberts. Performing as the intelligence officers and their secretaries, as well as everyone else they meet, they cannot fail to impress. While the roles of Ewen Montague and Charles Cholmondley (who came up with the plan) feature most, every member of the quintet is fantastic.

There are, also, a lot of ideas. Gently at first, with many sweet jokes about Britishness – the subject of national identity comes into focus. Themes about manhood, that have been cleverly laid, come to the fore. The gags don’t stop, but a meta theatricality is used to give the show weight.

Which points towards what I like best. Yes: the score is fantastic, it’s one you want to hear again as soon as it’s over. But Operation Mincemeat still feels like a fringe show – and is all the better for it. Full of invention, wit and raw talent, its low-fi approach is hugely winning. It is a valuable addition to the West End, highlighting what’s important in theatre. Mission accomplished.

Until 15 June 2024


“The Woman in Black” at the Fortune Theatre

In theatre, longevity really is a sign of quality; the market is so ferocious, the returns on investment slim, that long-running shows have to earn their place no matter how high their reputation. The Woman in Black, still running at the Fortune Theatre after 25 years, is a case in point. A fantastic show, sure to please, and such fun that it’s worth seeing more than once.

Susan’s Hill’s ghost story, adapted so skilfully by Stephen Mallatratt, concerns the trauma of a young lawyer (Arthur Kipps) visiting a deceased client’s house. It’s haunted, of course, and a tragedy unfolds. The clever twist is that, as an exercise in exorcism, the elderly Kipps sets out to re-enact the story with the help of an actor, and the action is transposed into the theatre itself.

So The Woman in Black becomes a work of theatre in a pure, simple form, utilising our imagination to engender the fun and the fear. It’s beautifully economical. We are scared by the simplest of things: a scream, a shadow and a slamming door. The only ‘effects’ that enhance Michael Holt’s set design are the excellent lighting and sound, from Kevin Sleep and Gareth Owen, with everything else deliberately downplayed. Instead, the production relies heavily on the duo performing. The current incumbents – the latest additions to a long and prestigious list – are Crawford Logan as Kipps and Tim Delp as The Actor. They give real value for money. Logan is marvellous as he takes on many roles, recreating characters he met as a young man. Delap is hugely appealing and manages to give the play surprising emotional punch. As part of the action, their skill as actors is showcased to the audience, discussed and laid bare, another technique to gain our complicity.

Behind the apparent simplicity there are plenty of clever devices. Drawing the audience in, the staging makes the experience totally different to reading a ghost story or seeing a horror movie. This kind of scary you can only get in a theatre. And of all London’s longer-running shows, this one is the safest bet; even those that don’t like musicals or puppets (shame on them) are going to love it, and Londoners should not stop recommending it to out-of-towners – and each other.


Photo by Tristram Kenton

Written 6 June 2013 for The London Magazine