The best musical about a corpse – OPERATION MINCEMEAT – returns!

Sharper, smarter, crazier – SpitLip’s OPERATION MINCEMEAT, one of the biggest, funniest and best fringe hits of 2109 and 2020 is back!

Those of you who read my initial review from this show’s 2019 run at the New Diorama may remember that I loved the show’s smart lyrics, crazy and deftly-played comedy, and insanely catchy tunes. I did at the time express a hope that they would bring a director on board to develop its many strengths and ensure that the show achieved the even greater heights I suspected it had potential to rise to*.

Well, it seems that’s what they have done by bringing on board director Donnacadh O’Briain and choreographer Jenny Arnold. Really welcome news!

Not only that, but the team have spent considerable time during lockdown working on stripping down, streamlining and improving the show in many ways.

Together with the new logo and visuals, this all looks hugely promising.

So when can I see it, you ask? Well, the fruits of their labours can first be seen at 14 Work-In-Progress shows at the Southwark Playhouse in late July/early August.

(For those who may not have encountered them, Work In Progress performances are a way to try out new or fluid pieces of material within the framework of the show, to see what gets an audience reaction, and then working with those reactions to refine and hone the show. This means that audiences may well not see completely the same show from performance to performance, and it’s one of the great fun things about Work In Progress performances. If you are in doubt, bear in mind that in the 1930s, the Marx Brothers took their film scripts out to play live in theatres (often as much as six times a day) to “find the laughs” so that the writers could hone them, before committing the scripts to film.)

The story? During World War Two the British are constantly seeking novel ways to outwit the enemy. The idea- to create a fake identity by dressing an anonymous corpse as a Marine officer whose body will wash up on Spanish shores carrying fake papers about a planned Allied invasion of Sardinia, to distract attention -and troops- from the real point of entry, Sicily. Putting the plan into action involves much crazy fun along the way, from forgetful morticians (“must have a head, must be a man”) to creating the corpse’s backstory, to suspicions about who can be trusted. The show gained an impressive number of five and four-star reviews on its first and second runs.

I see that SpitLip have comedy specialists Avalon supporting them now which means a shift into bigger potential. But for me the ideal would be for a canny female producer (I’d love to name them but there are so many!) to take this in hand and make it into an even bigger hit.

The previous stagings of OPERATION MINCEMEAT 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 2019.

I already have my tickets booked for this run and would urge you to book yours too, if you want to be in at the development of a musical comedy which delivers big on both music and comedy, and which has the potential to be a cult hit of the same scale as THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW.

You can book tickets here from 11am on Thursday 10th June, but you’d better do it quickly!

* (This is one of the reasons the show didn’t get five stars from me, but four – because I suspected there was an even better show in there – and I would be quite possibly be giving that five stars somewhere down the line.)


PRELUDES to be livestreamed from Southwark Playhouse

One of the top ten best shows of 2019, Dave Malloy’s mesmerising PRELUDES returns to the Southwark Playhouse for a short run of streamed concert performances in May.

The story deals with legendary composer Rachmaninoff and his struggle with writers block which lead to him being treated by a hypnotherapist in the late nineteenth century.

Nominated for two Stage Debut Awards 2020 for actor Tom Noyes and director Alex Sutton, PRELUDES is an elegantly, intriguingly constructed work which grips the viewer as few other shows have done. Its often sublime musicality makes its a must-see show. The superb 2019 cast have been reassembled which will ensure the incredibly high quality of this streamed production.

You can read my four star review of PRELUDES here

Read what a clinical hypnotherapist thought of PRELUDES here

Book for PRELUDES here


Southwark Playhouse’s hit musical WASTED

The Southwark Playhouse has launched “Southwark Stayhouse” with a trio of shows o view online, the highlight of which is WASTED, the brilliant new rock musical about the Bronte sisters.

Yes, that’s what I said. It didn’t sound like my cup of tea, to be frank, but I went along with an open mind and…it blew me away. A uniformly strong cast told the Brontes story through music in a style which brought them roaring up to date with a real in-your face quality.

I knew that it had to reappear sometime, but I didn’t think that it would happen like this. Now. and for free.

Directed by Adam Lenson, with music by Christopher Ash, book and lyrics by Carl Miller, and produced by the impeccable trio of Sally Humphreys, Oli Sones and Jason Haigh-Ellery, WASTED is a total shock to the system that works like a dream. Enjoy!

Although this production is free to watch, please strongly consider making a donation to the Southwark Playhouse to enable it to reopen its doors after this crisis has passed.

VIEWING PERIOD ENDED


Review: LIPSTICK

LIPSTICK runs at Southwark Playhouse until 28th March. Information and tickets here

IN BRIEF Two teenagers struggle to find themselves in well-written portrait of difference

A single tube of lipstick propels this interesting play about Tommy and Jordan, two teenage boys. Tommy likes lipstick. Jordan likes how Tommy looks in lipstick. Seeking stability away from his warring parents, Jordan finds a kind of refuge at Tommy’s house next door. They cultivate a connection based on outsidership, Tommy having been absent from school.

They do what teenagers do, experimenting to try and find out who they are and how they fit into the world. Searching for connection and trying to avoid rejection. But Jordan’s assumptions that he and Tommy are similar are shattered when the full extent of Tommy’s acute anxiety comes out. 

Their relationship is often gentle, sometimes harsh, occasionally funny – but it feels authentic.

That painful tension of transition between childhood and adulthood that causes so much anguish is well expressed in Lily Shahmoon’s play which treats its characters with understanding.

Directed by Ed White, the acting is finely-tuned; both are memorable performances. April Hughes as Tommy captures the rather drug- subdued straightforwardness (masking the reality) of Tommy, at one point making a truly startling transition into his alter-ego Tina. The final confrontation where Tommy’s reality hits Jordan is impassioned and moving. 

Helen Aluko as Jordan shows us the inconsistency of someone exploring their sexuality, at times lashing out at others for what they most recognise in themselves.

It was an intriguing idea to use female actors to portray the boys – it subtly changes the dynamic and somehow allows us to focus on the feelings rather than the sexuality of the situation.

LIPSTICK runs at Southwark Playhouse until 28th March. Information and tickets here


Winners of the OFFIES Awards 2020

At a ceremony at Battersea Arts Centre on Sunday 8 March, the winners of the 2020 OFFIES were announced.

In the list below, you can read my reviews of the shows by clicking on the show name.

Best Company Ensemble was rightly won by OPERATION MINCEMEAT for their run at the New Diorama Theatre.

Bill Buckhurst won Best Director of a Musical for the splendid GHOST QUARTET at the Boulevard Theatre, another well-deserved win.

In the Best Choreography/ Movement award, Oti Mabuse won for AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ which ran last year at Southwark Playhouse.

I was very pleased to see that Jordan Li-Smith, so good in Dave Malloy’s PRELUDES, won Best Musical Director for QUEEN OF THE MIST at the Jack Studio Theatre/ later transferred to the Charing Cross Theatre.

In the category Best Female Performance in a Play, Gemma Barnett won for her work in A HUNDRED WORDS FOR SNOW which played at Trafalgar Studios 2.

In the Most Promising New Playwright Award I was disappointed that Zia Ahmed did not win for the haunting I WANNA BE YOURS which ran at the Bush Theatre.

Also, In the Best New Play Award, I was similarly disappointed that Rose Lewenstein did not win for her extraordinary COUGAR at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees alike!