Bristol Hippodrome


Mikado- June 2016


Capital punishment romcom

The Mikado is part music hall, part pantomime, it’s a comical political romp set ‘if you please’ in Japan.

Only this production by the Scottish Opera with D’Oyly Carte Opera Company adds a contemporary twist to the Gilbert and Sullivan classic with modern and local references including a jibe about a defunct tax evading SNP leader, dodgy VW diesel emissions and Weston-super-Mare.

It is all laugh-out-loud.

And it even looks as if they had ‘borrowed’ the Bath umbrellas for one scene.

All-in-all its more Whitehall farce than Shogun with an incidental backdrop from the land of the setting sun.

Six of us went on Wednesday night to the Bristol Hippodrome to see this touring show and all agreed the second ‘alf is the best.

There was a bit of gore with a decapitation in the opening Game of Thrones moment and a bit of hell fire (and roasted chicken) in the finale but mostly it is played for light-hearted laughs with the ‘Gaiety Girls’ chorus adding colour, chic and a bit of leg – not quite geisha! 

Richard Suart in the role of Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner was the lynchpin of the production looking like a cross between Del Boy and Max Wall although in song he sounds at times as if he was going to ‘talk to the animals’ in the style of Rex Harris.

He also threw in a Frankie Howard ‘ooh’.

It was a mechanical blackbird which got his attention in the well-known Tit Williow lament to love – and yes, Ko-Ko is a bit of a tit and a bit of a dick(y bird) but then that’s the storyline.

All the ingredients for a perfect performance were there – great cast, fantastic costumes, impressive scenery and wonderful live orchestra and yet especially in the first half something didn’t quite gel.

Okay the language is archaic and the story farcical but it wasn’t that.

While it all looked so pretty at times you felt you were looking at a tableau as the movement wasn’t quite right.

The clumsiness of the clown-like Ko-Ko was demonstrated every time he trapped his thumb in the scabbard and perhaps this characterisation would have been better developed in other principal parts.

I loved the Whitehall bowler hats and pleated pin-striped skirt-like pants, the It Ain't Half Hot Mum tropical suit with samurai styling wore by the Sumo wrestler size Andrew Shore as the corrupt Pooh-Ban, holder of numerous exalted offices.

Baritone Martin Lloyd-Evans as The Mikado with his mask-like comic book makeup and the gothic ghoul daughter-in-law elect Katisha with her epic steamboat arrival based on the iconic The Great Wave Off Kanagawa print by Japanese artist, Hokusai were my favourites.

Despite an impending forced marriage for one The Three Little Maids From School Are We routine with Yum-Yum, Emma Kerr as Peep-Bo and Sioned Gwen Davies as Pitti-Sing contains the lyrics ‘life is a joke that's just begun’.

The Cleopatra suicidal tendencies of Nicholas Sharratt as Nanki-Poo the minstrel and runaway son of the Mikado with his boy-band top knot proves nothing is new in fashion.

He wandered on and off stage almost at will with his one-man-percussion band and after ‘dumping Katisha’ enjoyed long and lingering stage kisses with Yum Yum – the lust interest of Ko-Ko.

Can you imagine the questions in this day and age about an elderly buffoon housing three teenager gals and then proposing to marry one – these Victorians weren’t PC.

Written in 1885 and set in the fictional Japanese town of Titipu in the 1880s the opera satirises British society, customs and pretentions.

Guardian critic Kate Molleson coined the phrase ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’s capital punishment romcom’ in her review which sums it up nicely.

It is certainly worth a trip to the theatre and plays Bristol until Saturday, June 25.

Carol Deacon

A Yum Yum opera musical farce


PREVIEW: Scottish Opera and the  D’Oyly Carte Opera Company is bringing The Mikado to the Bristol Hippodrome.

The comic Gilbert and Sullivan political satire plays from Wednesday, June 22 for four nights.

This follows the success joint production of  The Pirates of Penzance in 2013,

Written in 1885 and set in the fictional Japanese town of Titipu in the 1880s, this ever-popular opera satirises British society, customs and pretentions through a farcical plot with gags aplenty.

The Mikado has decreed that those caught flirting should be sentenced to death but  things take a complicated turn when his son Nanki-Poo falls for Yum-Yum, whose beauty has also caught the eye of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.

Featuring many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular songs, including ‘A wand'ring minstrel I’, ‘Three little maids from school are we’ and ‘I’ve got a little list’, The Mikado is perfect for those new to opera and offers a night of great entertainment for all the family.

Directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans it stars Gilbert and Sullivan stalwart Richard Suart as Ko-Ko, Nicholas Sharratt as Nanki-Poo, Rebecca Bottone is Yum-Yum, Sioned Gwen Davies is Pitti-Sing.

Baritone Stephen Richardson plays the Mikado, comic genius Andrew Shore is Pooh-Bah and Ben McAteer is Pish-Tush.

Scottish Opera head of music Derek Clark and D’Oyly Carte conductor David Steadman share duties in the pit.

Stunning costumes and a comical tale promise a great family night out.

Mr Lloyd-Evans said: "Make no mistake, The Mikado is as much about Japan as Yes, Minister. 

"Transposing his satire to an exotic, and at the time very popular culture, enabled Gilbert to cut all the more deeply into his target - the British ruling classes.

"Over-zealous policy-making heedless of the impact on the populace, the self-serving ambition of the entitled few - how little has changed since Victorian times.

"At the heart of all this satire, carried by Sullivan's musical brilliance, The Mikado aims to give the audience a great night out. We've tried to create a setting which not only gives voice to The Mikado's satirical edge, but also captures the unfettered fun and frolic of live Victorian theatre."

For further details and tickets from £14.90 click HERE.

PHOTOS: Top Rebecca de Pont Davies as Katisha, left theatre-goers at Bristol Hippodrome, Rebecca Bottone as Yum-Yum and Nicholas Sharratt as Nanki-Poo and above Richard Suart as Ko-Ko and Stephen Richardson as The Mikado in the Scottish Opera and D’Oyly Carte 2016 productions © James Glossop