In hindsight, it was wrong to have booked tickets for Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, expecting the flamboyance and sumptuousness of Mike Leigh’s Topsy Turvy – which incidentally is one of my favourite films. Much to my disappointment, Alistair McGowan’s semi-austere production was anything but a visual spectacle.
All the men in this production were dressed as undertakers although the women (including the female choir) wore colourful dresses. It was a little disconcerting, however, to see various members of the female choir wearing clashing patterns and standing next to each other. There was nothing on the stage to suggest that this comic opera was taking place in Japan. Absolutely nothing. It was like a christmas tree that has been stripped of all its decorations.
But once I recovered from my disappointment and got used to the austere staging (sometime during the interval), I began to enjoy the performance more. The music and singing were delightful but the high point in this production has to be Richard Suart’s Ko-Ko. His energetic performance, timing, delivery and movement were flawless, adding much to the overall enjoyment of this production. Richard Suart got a much deserved standing ovation at the end.
I also liked the contemporary references inserted in the songs. For example, Alistair McGowan’s interest in football was apparent in this production – there were comic references to Wayne Rooney, English footballers and football as well as vuvuzelas in Ko-Ko’s song As Some Day It May Happen. Dr Cable, Elton John, Berlusconi, Serena Williams and the Coalition Government were amongst others who were ‘name-checked’ in this production, bringing laughter to the audience.
Alistair McGowan’s next Gilbert and Sullivan production is The Pirates of Penzance in March 2011 and I expect it to be just as austerely staged as The Mikado. But given how much I enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan’s works, I shall go along to that but I shall go along with my expectations considerably lowered.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5
The Mikado is at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall on 8 January followed by Manchester’s The Bridgewater Hall on 9 January.