Mincemeat @ Cordy House, London

cast includes
Nicholas Khan, Ifan Meredith, Robert Gillespie and Jo Galbraith

directed by
Adrian Jackson

From the moment you arrive at Cordy House, a disused building in Shoreditch, you know you’re not in for a traditional night at the theatre.

Adrian Jackson and Farhana Sheikh’s play, in a production by Cardboard Citizens (the UK’s only homeless people’s professional theatre company), is a cleverly devised and incredibly intriguing piece of promenade performance that leads you on a fascinating journey through various locations including bomb sites, air raid shelters and a 1940s mortuary.

Major William Martin is dead and upon his arrival at a somewhat drab looking heaven is asked the question: “Who are you?” Being unable to remember his life and subsequent death he is taken on a trip back through time with Head Angel Charlie to serve as his guide.

He discovers he was part of Operation Mincemeat, the deception that convinced the German High Command that British troops were intending to invade Greece and Sardinia instead of Sicily, which was the actual target.

This was done through the discovery of ‘Top Secret’ documents that were deliberately placed in a briefcase manacled to a soldier who was left washed up on a beach in Spain. Mincemeat follows Major Martin as he endeavours to sift fact from fiction while also asking the ultimate question of what determines who we really are.

The play starts off with a bang when a white van enters and a group of animal-masked anarchists jump out to reveal they have kidnapped an aged Ewen Montague (the Officer behind Operation Mincemeat) in order to question him. We quickly learn that this is merely a false start and the real play will begin just as soon as we make our way into the next room. The audience are then lead into different rooms and across a number of floors as they too undergo a mission to find the truth behind the fiction.

It does take a moment or two to fully understand what is happening around you, but the production, as directed by Jackson, is a brilliantly crafted and thoroughly engaging look into identity and what makes us who we are. The repetition of the statements, “You are who people say you are/You are who you say you are” and “You are what you have” are particularly effective at making you think about what makes you, you.

The emphasis placed on the idea that our understanding is simply based on our limited knowledge, further makes you think about the countless time you’ve gotten the wrong of the stick in situations and how fluid opinions and points of view really are.

While the apprehensive thought of spending the two and a half hours on your feet isn’t instantly appealing, the effectiveness of the play is enhanced greatly due to its location and staging and I seriously doubt it would have been as successful if it were staged in a traditional theatre using traditional techniques.

Each different room was designed to fit with the themes of the play perfectly and luckily the production team had the hindsight to include space to either stand or sit in each space.

Although at that length Mincemeat feels a little long, and sitting on the floor did become a tad uncomfortable as the night wore on, the self-reflective script combined with the cast’s spot on performances make this a unique and exciting theatrical experience.

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