Review: The Mikado, by Gilbert & Sullivan, Opera della Luna, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, October 21
A cast of just seven, excluding the orchestra, managed to carry off one of G&S’s most exuberant comic operettas and turned it into a stage musical set in the flashy world of modern fashion suggestive of Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Nanki-Poo (Tim Walton), the Mikado’s only son, is disguised as a wandering minstrel and has fled the attentions of his fiancé Katisha (Louise Crane) to find and woo Yum-Yum (Victoria Joyce) who is unfortunately already engaged to Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. The Mikado has complained about the lack of executions of late in the Town of Titipu and threatens to reduce it to village status. Ko-Ko is persuaded to let Nanki-Poo marry Yum-Yum provided he offers himself up for execution after a month.
All the familiar numbers are there. Walton and Crane pulled off a highly amusing and deftly performed ‘Here’s a how-de-do’ when it turns out that if Nanki-Poo marries Yum-Yum his bride must also die. Ko-Ko has to be persuaded to fake the execution so that the couple can escape but when the Mikado arrives in town he enquires after his errant son only to discover he has been executed. Ko-Ko must restore Nanki-Poo to full health and take on the rejected Katisha to avert yet more executions.
The players were required to carry off choreography as well as singing, which did not greatly add to the mix and detracted from the diction. That said, the performance was something of a romp, with the traditional updating of Ko-Ko’s List Song and the Mikado’s ‘punishments which must fit the crime’. Louise Crane’s Katisha was suitably over the top and her Joan Collins-esque entrance a hit with the audience. Richard Gauntlett, as the comic Ko-Ko, was more theatre than opera but managed the audience in panto style and raised several heartfelt laughs.