Dead in the Water - A Musical Tragicomedy
  • By Jen Payne
  • |
  • 3rd Sep 2014
  • |
  • ★★★★★

Dead in the Water takes the odd story of Operation Mincemeat - where Welsh vagrant Glyndwr Michael’s body was dumped by MI5 off the coast of Spain, complete with documents identifying him as Major William Martin and detailing a plan to attack Sardinia, rather than Sicily, the Allies’ real landing point - and shapes it into a delightful tragi-comic musical.

On top of the excellent performances, script and score, Jemma Evelyn-Gould’s direction and choreography are tight, witty, and make excellent use of the tiny space.

Writers Paul Tibbey and Mark Sims have created an entirely appropriate score which draws on but never feels derivative of the music of war-time England - from the music-hall All-Clear to the winsome wistful Until we Kiss Again and bluesy, show-girl Why Not. The lyrics are witty and knowing, and the script intricate and perfectly pitched. It’s also bloody clever - with three separate timelines and stories going on, interwoven with exquisite delicacy.

Our narrator is Hester Leggit - an MI5 agent spilling the beans after her own death. Her assistant Pam becomes the sweetheart attributed to the fictional Major to flesh out his character. Pam (Francesca Peplow) doubles as the Nurse charged with looking after Glyn (Lloyd Ryan-Thomas) after he’s poisoned by MI5, and engaged to Bernie (also Ryan-Thomas), a squaddie posted on the Sicily mission. The real genius though is the playing out of the fictional relationship between Pam and ‘Bill’ i.e. Major Martin. The scenes between Peplow as Pam and Ryan-Thomas as Bill are rendered with as much love and warmth as the ‘real’ people - right down to their teary final goodbyes before he ‘leaves for Spain’. Hester (Sophie Hughes) does her fair share of doubling too, making a poignant turn as Glyn’s downtrodden mother, and a soulful spot as a silky-voiced Gargoyle Club singer. The script’s much deserved focus is on Glyn - a proper exploration of the man, and how his life became such that he would willingly accept a poisoned Rarebit for the sake of the Bernies of this world.

Performances are outstanding all round, particularly impressive given that they each have multiple characters. Francesca Peplow is sweet and wide-eyed as the nurse, sharp and ballsy as Pam. Sophie Hughes holds the room with her authoritative Hester, but allows a depth of sympathy to develop as she explores the characters loneliness in the sorrowful Had I Ever Loved. Special mention though has to go to Lloyd Ryan-Thomas who perfects a happy-go-lucky Bernie, achingly sympathetic Glyn, and makes Bill the suave, sweet, gently seductive hero of every girl’s dreams. His singing voice is the strongest of the three (though the women also make light work of the challenging score), and his transitions between characters, even whilst singing, are seamless.

On top of the excellent performances, script and score, Jemma Evelyn-Gould’s direction and choreography are tight, witty, and make excellent use of the tiny space. Put simply, there’s nothing I didn’t like about this smart and elegant piece - bally good show chaps!

Reviews by Jen Payne

Camden People's Theatre

We Are Not Cakes

★★
Camden People's Theatre

First Draft

★★
The Hen & Chickens Theatre

Dead in the Water - A Musical Tragicomedy

★★★★★
Camden People's Theatre

Where Do Little Birds Go?

★★★★
The Hen & Chickens Theatre

The Girl In The Blue Coat

★★★
Etcetera Theatre

The Fix

★★★

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Performances

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The Blurb

The incredible true story of Operation Mincemeat, one of the most remarkable episodes in the Second World War is brought to life as a new musical.

In April 1943, the body of a British Major washed up on a Spanish beach. Secret papers found on the body eventually led Hitler to divert defences from Sicily saving thousands of allied lives.

But the Major never really existed. The body was that of a destitute, homeless Welshman, Glyndwr Michael.

From this Tibbey and Sims weave a dark musical tragicomedy, with Glyn’s story told through fast paced dialogue, witty lyrics and haunting melodies.

"Wickedly talented authors" Chicago Tribune

"Tibbey and Sims have form when it comes to creating artful musicals... wittily entertaining!" **** The Times

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