Theatre News

Fan campaign confirms lost Operation Mincemeat character details

The incredible work of one musical’s fandom has unearthed one character’s true history

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Jak Malone as Hester Leggett in Operation Mincemeat, © Matt Crockett

A West End musical lives and dies with its fans – and the five-star comedy Operation Mincemeat is no exception.

The World War Two caper, which was born at the New Diorama in north London before opening in the West End earlier this year, tells the largely buried story of a group of secret intelligence agents fooling Axis powers by using a corpse and a series of documents, planted by the Allies to create a false trail.

Over the course of its life, Operation Mincemeat has amassed a legion of loyal followers, many of whom have delved into its historical inspiration and inner secrets – as well as that of its panoply of oddball and larger than life characters.

One of the main characters is secretary Hester Leggett, played with aplomb by Jak Malone. In the show, Leggett plays a vital role in creating a convincing backstory to fool the Nazis by writing fake love letters, while also delivering the showstopping number “Dear Bill” – a number inspired by Leggett’s own words (“Darling, why did we go and meet in the middle of a war, such a silly thing for anybody to do.”)

History has been less kind to Leggett, with little trace of her work or history – unlike that of some of her younger or more flamboyant co-workers.

Step forwards Operation Mincemeat fans – who created the #FindingHester hashtag to help fill in the backstory for the character. Their results were remarkably successful – the team quickly discovered that Leggatt’s name was originally spelt with an “a” rather than an “e”, where she went to school, when she passed her piano exams, and, by comparing handwriting, that she was indeed responsible for the secret letters used in Operation Mincemeat.

This work fleshes out a figure who would otherwise be entirely forgotten by history – now brought to the fore in a whimsical five-person musical that started in a studio space in north London.

Mincemeat fans are truly a special bunch – as was proved when over 80 of them went to the show in various costumes last night – as you can see below.

The show continues to play to sold-out crowds at the Fortune Theatre.

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