This production of Mikado is a fiercely funny, satirical and self-aware operetta which mocks high society at almost all levels. The glee that it produces is enrapturing and the performance cannot help but compel all of the audience to love it as much as the cast clearly do. It is directed by Emma Barker, produced by Owen Barrie and Benedict Connaughton and musically directed by Charlotte Perkins. With its high production value and performance level, the energy it produces is effusive. The production welcomes the audience into another delightfully bizarre but endearing world, that of Titipu and at the end, leaves them in the theatre in a state of effervescent joy. Post reading week, it is certainly needed!
Despite its Gilbert and Sullivan status, the references are hilariously contemporary and it setting is sensitively modernised. Instead of a traditional Japanese setting, it imagines itself in a Japanese village in Knightsbridge, which allows its mockery to be directed at British society and not the Japanese who suffered at the expense of British exoticism in the original production. While it retains the hilarity the performance always intended, it does so in a way that plays to the weaknesses within modern society. To the rather sadistic delight of the audience, Ko-Ko’s condemnation is thus aimed at current figures across the political and entertainment world; some controversial and some just detestable.
The work that all of the performers put into this production is clear. All enhanced its charm. The performances of Katisha (Alice Gold) and Ko-Ko (Ben Connaughton) were particularly outstanding. Both somehow embodied their characters and were entirely convincing; it is really quite difficult to imagine either as anything but belonging within Titipu! The chemistry they built on stage was so enjoyable to witness; they were able to naturally bounce off each other’s love for the show. This is definitely to the credit of their performances and it is really a world that they made come to life.
Also striking were the portrayals of Yum-Yum (Alexandra Upton), Nanki-Poo (George Appleyard) and Pooh-Bah (Kyle Rodrigues). Rodrigues’s characterisation as the multi-talented and many careered Pooh-Bah was brimming with mirth and was so much fun to watch. Appleyard played up well to his multiplicity of characterisations, initially Second Trombone, and was the innocently good force the town needed. Upton’s portrayal of Yum-Yum’s superficiality was especially interesting. Her solo ‘The sun whose rays are all ablaze’ was one of my favourites if not the favourite of the show. It was positively ethereal and the audience seemed gripped in a trance as she sang.
Of course, the entrance of the Mikado himself was terribly thrilling. The mysterious figure which haunts the characters of the first half is suddenly brought to life by Peter Black with all the gravity and pizzazz one could want. The cross between his characterisation as King Edward VII and if unintentionally but made all the more effective by, Darth Vader, is a characterisation that is quite unforgettable!
Visually stunning, the costumes, makeup and set all really cemented the memorable nature of the performance. Under the guidance of wardrobe mistress Angela Warneken, suits in fresh Autumnal shades and dresses in spring powdery pastels all made the characterisations light up and transported the audience right into the midst of 19th century society.
On a different note, it is possibly important to point out at such a level of performance, the need for microphones for the cast or even just the leads. The show’s power is only undermined slightly by the need for vocal enhancement in parts. Despite this, it was still an effective and highly successful production.
More critically, it would be remiss not to note the huge success of the orchestra as it is a massive task to play so well for the whole production. Expertly directed by Charlotte Perkins, they barely missed a beat and clearly also thoroughly enjoyed being part of the show as much as the cast. The introduction they posed to the play itself, allowed the world to be imaginatively set up before us and were an integral part of both the auditory and visual production.
Ultimately, Mikado is a show that makes you want to go again, and I do hope it makes a return!