Director: David Kay
Musical Director: Rod Dakin
Choreography: The Kathleen Atherton Academy of Dance
The Three Towns
The Mikado is one of the most famous and best loved Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Celebrating the group’s 50th anniversary, a lavish production was mounted. Fashion rules taste and in the late 1800s everything Japanese was in vogue. This was enough for Gilbert to mock satirically society at almost every level and the British Empire, which is given a Japanese veneer.
With the spectacle of the set, costumes and the beautiful music, audiences were transported into this delightful topsy-turvy, endearing world. For this visit to Titipu one setting was used for both acts one and two. The set was well designed and painted, with a striking use of red, a hint of which was carried through to the costume plot. The character presentation was excellent, sensitively updated and with outstanding costumes by Charades. Actors need to know how to wear a costume, in the style and of the era depict. The ladies ensemble carried this off with elegance. Lighting enhanced the drama and sound was at the right balance for the proceedings.
The Three Towns is a large company and one which fills the stage the result of which tends to make the direction a little static. The traditional principle work, however, was well thought through. The use of dancers was inventive and added to the overall picture. The routines were original and well delivered by the four dancers. It was so nice to hear Sullivan’s beautiful score in full. In my opinion it has been vandalised by reduced orchestrations in some productions. The music was the high point of the presentation and the ensemble singing was exceptional.
The characters were delightfully portrayed and Gilbert’s libretto, mocking death and bumbling officials, came through. Nanki-Poo, was confidently played by David Griffiths, on his quest to find Yum-Yum, and his eventual marriage to her. On that journey he meets the officials and nobility of the town. From the noble lord Pish-Tush (Bruce Deakin) to the Lord-High-Everything-Else, Pooh-Bah. That man of pedigree, Pooh-Bah, who was definitely born sneering, was entertainingly portrayed by Ken Rees. Taking the vacant position of Lord High Executioner of Titipu is the cheap tailor Ko-Ko. This role is a comic treasure trove, and it has been played by so many players, from Groucho Marx to Eric Idle. David Kay, although perhaps not as nimble-footed as other Ko-Kos. put his own stamp on the role. His reworking of the little list. with references to Trump and Brexit. were well received. Ko-Ko’s ward and future bride. The entrance of Yum-Yum, and her school chums, Pitti-Sing (Lauren Smith) and Peep-Bo (Jennie Heywood) enlivened the stage picture. The vanity and innocence of Yum-Yum was captured by Victoria Goulden. This characterisation was never more evident than in her rendering of “The Suns Whose Rays Are All Ablaze”.
Turning everything on its head, the Mikado and Katisha come to Titipu see if the Mikado’s orders had been carried out. David Reeves, as the Mikado, regally informed the assembled townspeople that the punishment should fit the crime. “A little bit blood-thirsty”, Katisha, was not the harridan of other interpretations. Susan Bradley found the pathos in the role and the loneliness that is revealed in “Alone and Yet Alive”.
The effervescent energy and enjoyment that came from the stage gave the audience the joy that is Gilbert and Sullivan.