Get our free email newsletter with just one click

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
by -

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.


We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Gilbert and Sullivan’s opera is reinvented with sparkling wit and energy for a 21st-century audience