Music: Arthur Sullivan
Libretto: W C Gilbert
Original Director: Jeff Clarke
Revival Director: Jenny Arnold
Reviewer: Helen Jones
Opera Della Luna have been producing innovative productions of musical theatre for nearly twenty years. Their present tour of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado keeps up their high standards of producing accessible enjoyable shows on a smaller scale than the bigger companies.
The Mikado, or its alternative title of The Town of Titipu originally opened in 1885 and over the last hundred and thirty years has become one of the most performed pieces of musical theatre in the world. Written to satirise the politics and institutions of Victorian Britain, the opera was set in Japan to lessen the harshness of the satire.
Nanki-Poo arrives in Titipu to reclaim the lovely Yum-Yum, after falling in love with her months earlier but being unable to pursue her as she was engaged to Ko-Ko. He has heard that Ko-Ko has been executed, so belelives he can return. However to his dismay he is advised that Ko-Ko was reprieved and that Ko-Ko and Yum-Yum are to be married the following day. He goes to commit suicide but is persuaded not to by Ko-Ko, bargaining for marriage to Yum-Yum for a month before he has to be executed in order to comply with the law. What only Yum-Yum knows is, who Nanki-Poo really is.
Opera Della Luna have put together this production with a minimal cast of just seven performers and limited sets yet have pulled off one of the best productions of the show I have seen. From the opening scene in the tailor’s shop through to the hysterically funny version of Here’s A How-de-do, everything has been carefully crafted and skillfully presented. The occasional mild swear word, northern accents and references to modern politics and influences only enhance the entire effect.
Tim Walton is a personable Nanki-Poo, making it easy to see why Yum-Yum would fall for him, while Victoria Joyce’s Yum-Yum is the perfect fashion model with a stunning voice. The rest of the cast are as strong with John Griffiths making both Pish-Tush and The Mikado strong personalities in their own right, while Carl Sanderson is a wonderfully pompous Pooh-Bah. Nichola Jolley is a highly expressive Pitti-Sing and Louise Crane doubles up as the third sister Peep-Po and the elderly widow Katisha. But is is Richard Gauntlett who steals the show as a highly comedic, physically slapstick Ko-Ko. Combined with his stunning voice, he is outstanding is his ability to make Ko-Ko both a source of fun and a source of empathy.
The Mikado is one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most accessible works. Opera Della Luna have made it perfect for the modern world and an ideal introduction to the wit and skill of Gilbert and Sullivan musical theatre.