30th May 2023
Interview: Amy Bell
Photo Credit: Charlotte Harwood
Claire-Marie Hall stars in the hotly anticipated West End transfer of the musical Operation Mincemeat. The show has received 5 star and stand out reviews across the board. Variety called it ‘a little show with a very big future’, The Stage called it a ‘masterclass of macabre musical comedy, masterfully performed’. The Observer said ‘A finely varied score, and lyrics that shame most big musicals’. Hall, in her principal role as Jean Leslie, is the absolute manifestation of that musical talent.
We chat to Hall about her role in the West End show and everything you need to know about Operation Mincemeat.
The Fortune Theatre opened their doors for the musical ‘Operation Mincemeat’, at the end of March, what attracted you to this role?
Even though we have just started our run at the Fortune Theatre, the show itself has been running and building a following in London fringe venues (namely the New Diorama, Southwark Playhouse and Riverside Studios) for the last few years. I joined the cast back in early 2020, not long after the show’s first ever outing at the New Diorama. I had heard incredible things about the initial run, so when I saw they were auditioning, I was immediately interested. Then when I found out they were specifically looking for someone who enjoyed multi-rolling, comedy and devising, I thought ‘oh I think I quite want this job’. Then when I heard some of the songs for the first time, I thought ‘no, I REALLY want this job’!
How has the feedback been since the start of the show?
To say it’s been wonderful would be an understatement. Over it’s lifespan so far, the show has gathered a huge amount of positive attention from a wide variety of media, not to mention a pool of dedicated fans and an ever growing audience of people that are coming mainly based on other people’s high recommendation. And all of this was before the West End version existed. We’ve literally just started getting the media reviews in for the West End run as our press nights have just happened. Fingers crossed, they seem to be incredibly positive so far. Audience response has been consistently amazing though. I do feel incredibly lucky to be a part of this show.
Growing up, was theatre always something you wanted to be involved in, and what did you first perform in?
As far as I can recall, yes. I have a vague memory of watching the Miss Saigon ‘making of’ documentary on VHS (remember those?!), when I was a kid and watching Lea Salonga audition for Kim and thinking ‘I want to be like her and be in something like that’. The first professional show I did though was a National Theatre touring version of South Pacific. I played Ngana for the Cardiff leg of the tour, I must have been about eleven at the time. It was from then on that I properly caught the acting bug.
Operation Mincemeat left to right is Claire-Marie Hall, Natasha Hodgson, David Cumming, Zoe Roberts and Jak Malone.
Photo Credit: Matt Crockett
Were your parents supportive of your idea of being in the theatre world, and was your family theatre oriented?
At first, not at all! I got extremely good grades in school and my family were quite expectant on me going down a more academic route when I was growing up. All my A Levels were geared towards me studying a law degree. When I did decide to pursue performing as a career choice, it took a bit of convincing to say the least. My family aren’t particularly theatre orientated although there was always an appreciation for music in my household growing up. My dad is Welsh, and Wales is usually known as ‘the land of song’, and my mum is Filipino, a culture which very much celebrates the arts, so in some ways maybe me ending up in this profession isn’t that much of a surprise!
What would you say the audition process was like for ‘Operation Mincemeat’, and how do you prepare for the audition?
I actually really enjoyed the audition process for the show. There were only a couple of stages if I remember rightly. I initially had to perform a comedy song of my choice and a rap (something I was terrified about at the time), but ended up choosing something by Goldie Lookin’ Chain so I actually had a laugh with it! When I got to the final stage, I had to perform a couple of numbers from the show, one of which hasn’t made it to the West End iteration and one which still is in the production although it sounds very different now. I also had to perform a bit of script as different characters which the panel threw at me in the room. I remember preparing hard as I really wanted the job, and also everyone on the panel being so supportive which obviously makes the whole thing a lot easier.
What are you most looking forward to for the future of theatre?
In terms of musicals, more new writing! Especially British new writing. There will always be a place for the big jukebox musicals and film/book adaptations, but musicals like Six, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Standing On The Sky’s Edge etc show that there is a market for new, fresh stories and ideas. The latest Olivier ‘New Musical’ nominees were extremely exciting and if we could carry on down that route, then that is something I would very much look forward to.
Operation Mincemeat: A New Musical’s extended run is until 19th August 2023 at the West End’s Fortune Theatre. More info and tickets at the Official Box Office OperationMincemeat.com