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The Mikado review at King’s Head Theatre, London – ‘wit and energy’

Mikado at King's Head Theatre, London. Photo: Bill Knight Matthew Palmer, Matthew Kellett and Philip Lee in The Mikado at King's Head Theatre, London. Photo: Bill Knight
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Who’d have thought that Gilbert and Sullivan’s baggy old warhorse could be reimagined for eight singers and a piano in a pub theatre, with such style and vitality? Director John Savournin’s pocket-sized production of The Mikado by Charles Court Opera is full of wit, impeccable timing and exceptional acting and singing by the energetic cast.

Eschewing a cod-Japanese aesthetic, the director and designers set the action in a British Consulate, a gentlemen’s club where the officials sported toothbrush moustaches, strangulated Queen’s English and a catalogue of silly walks.

Matthew Kellett as Pooh-Bah is especially nimble, leaping over sofas and balancing on chairs, outclassed in physical comedy only by Philip Lee as Ko-Ko. His acrobatic contortions occasionally tip into hysteria, but his Tit-Willow song is a tour de force.

As a delightfully gauche Nanki-Poo, Jack Roberts sings in an old-fashioned, tremulous tenor to his teenage sweetheart Yum-Yum, the assured Welsh soprano Alys Roberts. She is flanked by Corinne Cowling as a cheeky Peep-Bo and the confident Pitti-sing of Jessica Temple.

Consular officer Matthew Siveter reappears as a hulking Katisha; he’s somewhere between a pantomime dame and tragic diva. but he sings so well. As the Mikado, Matthew Palmer’s boyish face is unrecognisable under the whiskers and burgundy-red cheeks.

Though the dated use of the Japanese setting has gone, the issue of child abuse remains – those schoolgirls are definitely under age – and the Mikado’s relish for graphic executions is troubling.

These things aside, this is a triumphant achievement both visually and musically, thanks to the fizzing energy that radiates from David Eaton at the piano.

 

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Verdict
Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera is reinvented with sparkling wit and energy for a 21st-century audience
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