By Gilbert and Sullivan
Directed by Peter Mulloy
Carla Rosa Company
Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre
Date: Saturday 22nd November 2008
I’m keener on G&S than Steve, but even so he enjoyed himself almost as much as I did tonight. This was a splendid production, and it was such a joy to hear every word clearly, both spoken and sung.
The set design and costumes were from the original production, as far as could be determined – the director had worked on Topsy-Turvy, the film about G&S doing The Mikado over a century ago. They worked well for me; they were very colourful, and set the scene beautifully. There was a covered bridge at the back, and a painted backdrop with cherry blossom and some tree trunks, but otherwise the stage was pretty bare, although they did bring on the occasional stool. The patter songs had been cleverly updated, so the “little list” included people using mobile phones during the show, and bankers with obscene bonuses and the like. The “punishments” were now applied to a fresh range of people; I think the judges in Strictly Come Dancing came in for some stick, but I don’t remember all the details.
The performances were very good, and not just in the diction department. Nichola McAuliffe made a very good Katisha, with lots of variation in her expression, and a nice line in eyeing up any good looking young man who happened to be in the vicinity. Her bloodthirstiness was very evident; she stopped reading the fatal scroll to listen to the blow-by-blow account of the execution. I found her songs in the first half quite moving, as she really does express her sense of loss very well, but she was also good in the funny bits too. When the Mikado is getting the chorus to sing along to his litany of horrible punishments, she’s been offering him sake instead, but even she has to join in at the end.
Sylvester McCoy was very entertaining as the Mikado himself. Dressed in a preposterous costume, with a high-rise hat, he made the most of his time on stage to give us every conceivable comic grimace and gesture that he could (and he knows quite a few). He played with his tassel, he used his fan to good effect, and the songs also worked well. He found the name of the town, Titipu, totally hilarious (titty-pooh), and there were one or two other smutty bits I don’t remember seeing before, but they worked well for me tonight.
Gareth Jones as Pooh-Bah was suitably grave and haughty, with a hand ever ready for the pecuniary insult. Ko-Ko used a bit of string to get back one of the purses he handed over, and that was good fun. Pooh-Bah’s description of the decapitated head bowing to him was wonderfully ludicrous. Michael Kerry as Pish-Tush was very good. He was present during the glee See how the fates their gifts allot, and stood in very nicely for ‘B’. Ivan Shape as Nanki-Poo was fine, particularly in his opening number, when he had to win over the Titipu locals with his songs. He was well matched with Gillian Ramm as Yum-Yum, who has a lovely voice, and carried off the artless vanity of the part to perfection. Victoria Ward played Pitti-Sing, and did another fine job, with some fun interplay between her and Pish-Tush during the madrigal Brightly dawns our wedding day. I always feel sorry for Peep-Bo, who has so little to do despite being one of the three little maids.
The individual performance of the night, just shading the others, was Fenton Gray as Ko-Ko. He was superb, with lots of business that added to the fun. He did the patter song extremely well, and he was always a welcome presence on the stage. Even so, my enjoyment was down to the total impact of all these performances, and I was so happy to see a good G&S production again. I hope they’ll do some more.
© 2008 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me