The King’s Head Theatre, Islington, London.
The Mikado is a bit like The Cherry Orchard – done so often that directors invariably strive to come up with something fresh and do not always succeed. One goes along wondering whether one really needs to see another one and too often leaves feeling the same. But director John Savournin has done a really good job with this Charles Court Opera take on the tale of Titipu and the result is as fresh as a daisy, so to speak. Fans and kimonos and snickersnees are banished. Instead we are in allegedly the British consulate in Titipu, although in the event he makes little of this beyond not making anyone Japanese, concentrating instead on what, given that the three little maids are in gym slips and all the men in smart suits, is more the world of ‘Daisy pulls it off’.
Savournine has the advantage of a splendid Ko-Ko (Philip Lee rushing from crisis to crisis with zest) and as always with this company the singing is as good as it gets. Words are clear, notes get hit and no sound system is employed.
It is possibly a mistake to cast a man (Matthew Siveter) as Katisha, the dragon lady intent on marrying the Mikado’s so,n Nanki-Poo (Jack Roberts), but to his credit plays it straight. Maybe Sullivan’s musical jokes don’t quite work when the arias are not sung by a battleaxe contralto, but no matter – Siveter is a handsome gorgon.
The set is good, the three little girls are pretty, Nanki-Poo is suitably wet, although dressing him in the uniform of the Titipu town band to sing about being in shreds and patches is strange, and Pooh-Bah (Matthew Kellett) – although somewhat lacking in inches – is every inch the mandarin on the make.
The inevitable topical jokes in the patter songs are clever, the whole thing fizzes along splendidly, Savoyards cannot complain about liberties taken and those there for the first time will have been treated to a first rate introduction to the world of Gilbert and Sullivan.