Lyrics: “Be A Freak” ~ Felix Hagan & The Family, 2017
Picture the scene: The year is 2016. I’ve travelled from Germany to Edinburgh to see my 25th Frank Turner show. On this UK run Frank had brought along a rather unknown glam-rock-pop band called “Felix Hagan & The Family” as support and they got me hooked pretty quickly. I started following them as band and the various members on social media. In 2018 I was lucky to see them play three gigs: two at/around the Lost Evening Festival in London in May, one supporting Arkells in November in Germany and I don’t think they have played many more – if any – shows since. I don’t know if they ever will to be honest, because they all had / have other work or projects going on as well and we’re getting to that now. Because also in 2018 Felix Hagan and Tash Hodgson, one of the singers, started tweeting about how they teamed up with two more members of comedy troupe Kill the Beast to write a musical about a secret WWII mission: “Operation Mincemeat”. It sounded mad and fun and something I was absolutely interested in. This newly formed troupe SpitLip started sharing some work in progress videos with songs on Youtube and I enjoyed everyone of them.
For 2019 Frank had moved Lost Evenings to Boston, USA, which wasn’t a trip I was willing to take. I went up to Scotland for other fan-related events instead. But I had the foresight to schedule a stop in London on the way back home to see the first ever run of “Operation Mincemeat” in the New Diorama Theatre. 80 seats, which were only about half-filled on this Sunday matinee on their first weekend. The programme was a two page flyer (one piece of paper printed double sided). They had one person for lights, one for costumes (and props?), Felix played keys himself along with two more musicians (bass and percussion). I absolutely loved it and wrote about it here.
From 2020 to 2022 SpitLip did three more runs of the show in two more theatres. I’ve written extensively about the two I’ve seen: here (2020) and here (2022). Along the way they aquired a bit more support in ways of director and choreographer and they also rewrote quite a bit. They cut scenes and songs. They added scenes and songs. They cut / changed scenes and songs they had added before. It’s been a fascinating ride to have been along for. Assuming the ride has stopped yet. You never know with these guys.
In 2023 they’re now doing this show – their own show – in the London West End. The WEST END! With a proper set. Proper walls and doors. Two sturdy desks instead of three file cabinets. They’ve got understudies and a proper big production team. There are head and deputies in some departments! Some of the songs can be heard as instrumental score from the speakers before the show. The programme includes about a dozen pages on Spitlip as writers, extensive information on all the actors and the dozen other important people involved.
It’s mad! And I’m so so happy for them. They’ve come such a long way and they so deserve it in my opinion. We caught Felix after the show yesterday and he said that he sometimes still fears this is the biggest prank someone is playing on him.
So, what about the West End version? When the curtain opened on Saturday and I saw the new stage for the first time I admit my first thought was “Mmh. Where are the familiar file cabinets? Will this mad show work without them ?” Fear not people, it does work. So well. Even with a bigger production – and more money to it – it has kept its fast pace of changes of characters and scenes; by the drop of a hat often quite literally. Even on seeing it for the 7th time now since 2019 I’m in awe how they do that. It’s brilliant.
They haven’t changed too much dialogue or scenes from the run in 2022. The things they did change worked well / better than before. That’s the whole point of making changes, right? Thinking of the even more complex hats / phones / briefcase exchange makes me grin again. All in all everything got a bit bigger! Like the sturdy desks. The set and the props and the costumes are all just a bit more elaborate. More glitzy in the most unforeseen moments sometimes. The finale… well it’s called the Glitzy Finale for a reason. It’s big. And I really mean BIG! I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, but there at least two things you probably won’t expect to see. And in typical “Mincemeat the musical” fashion you won’t have finished laughing about the first one when the scenes change and the next one will have you in stitches all over again. It might especially on Coronation Day (May 6th) is all I’m saying.
As mentioned above I’ve written extensively about the previous runs and sang the casts’ praise extensively then. I don’t want to bore you all by repeating my words from last year or the year before. Everyone is so so so good. Still a few (final for now) thoughts on some of them:
As much as I enjoyed Sean Carrey stepping in to play Charlie last year, I was glad to see David Cumming back on stage, because no one does the lolloping sidekick as well as he does. It’s his long arms and legs, I guess.
Zöe always blows my mind with the physicality of her acting and the faces she’s able to make. Just look at the waiter in the final restaurant scene with Monty and Jean.
And Tash… what can I say. I feel the urge to quote myself after all, because it’s still all so true.
Also worth noting that my ‘girl crush’ on Tash is back full force. Which seems weird, because she’s playing a straight – and let’s be honest not always very nice – man here. Just shows that gender and crushes and all are fluid and isn’t that a wonderful thing? Within seconds she always makes me forgot it’s not a man playing Ewen Montagu. The arrogance, the swagger, the outrageous confidence. For some reason this time around I also was fascinated how quickly she can change moods and give off very different vibes. From being the cold, stern superior officer, when Charlie didn’t let go of the file: “I’ve issued you an order, Lieutenant” to the embarrassed and squirming – “It’s just a first draft” – amateur filmmaker within just a few quick moments. God, she’s brilliant.my own blog in summer 2022
I’m so glad I’ll be back for it once more in early June. And then hopefully will be able to buy all the merch. I mean ALL the merch. The cast recording will be out everywhere on May 12th. I just ordered the digital version on Amazon Germany and can’t wait to finally sing along to all the songs. For days and weeks and months probably. I’ll be annoying the hell out of everyone around me and I don’t care….