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The Mikado

By W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan

15th - 19th June 2004
York Theatre Royal

The Mikado (or The Town of Titipu) is often considered the best work of the Gilbert and Sullivan canon. It was their ninth collaboration, and was so successful that within a year, 150 companies worldwide had produced it. It came at a time when the partnership was under threat from major disagreements and rancour between the two partners (as seen in Mike Leigh’s Oscar-winning film Topsy-Turvy). Interest in Japan was high at the time of writing, and Japanese style was very much favoured.

The plot concerns the young man Nanki-Poo (who is actually the Mikado’s son in disguise) and his love for Yum-Yum, who is officially engaged to Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner. But the young man is pursued by the fiendish Katisha, who adores him, and who knows his secret. Eventually, needless to say, all works out happily, with Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum finding happiness and Katisha taking Ko-Ko in consolation!

Cast

The Mikado of Japan

Steve Griffiths

Nanki-Poo (his son)

Ashley Wilson

Ko-ko (Lord High Executioner of Titipu)

John Soper

Pooh-Bah (Lord High Everything Else)

Ian Small

Pish-Tush (a Noble Lord)

Clive Goodhead

Yum-Yum )

Cathy Atkin

Pitti-Sing ) Three schoolgirls, wards of Ko-ko

Amanda Shackleton

Peep-Bo )

Kylie Bradburn

Katisha (an Elderly Lady)

Maggie Soper

 

Musical Director – Alasdair Jamieson

Director – Pauline Chadwick

 

Set Design – John Soper

Costume Design – Maggie Soper

 

Reviews

‘Little List’ includes York's Parking Problems - The Press, June 2004.

From its earliest days, York Opera has always given a prominent place in its repertory to the Savoy operas. Quite right too. They are one of Britain’s few really distinctive contributions to European music and – let’s face it, in these Eurosceptic times – foreigners do not really understand them. Not the way York Opera does, anyway.

Pauline Chadwick’s production is traditional Japanese, but quite unstilted in its staging, which gleams with clean lines and fresh humour. Liz Watson’s equally fluent choreography makes smooth use of fans, while Maggie Soper’s costumes complement the Oriental detail in the side-panels of John Soper’s set. Such details supply invaluable atmosphere.

The musical strengths of the evening are built from the bottom up, in the pit, where Alasdair Jamieson’s 26-piece band recovers from a nervy overture to provide instinctively supple and sometimes very delicate, backing for the singers. The chorus is also extremely disciplined, blending well and, above all, keeping its movements to a minimum. Crucially, this allows the soloists the spotlight they deserve.

John Soper’s Ko-Ko holds this show in the palm of his hand, using a strong local accent to shrewd effect. Though he dallies on the boundaries of excess, the only time he really goes over the top is when he is trying to persuade Katisha of his undying passion. But he pulls it off through the sheer hilarity of his writhings.

His “little list” neatly covers Hogwarts, York’s current parking problems (to audience cheers), transatlantic politicians and Prince Charles. The other stand-out is Cathy Atkin’s Yum-Yum, whose voice and charm are equally engaging. Her projection is exemplary and ‘The Sun Whose Rays’ deservedly earns special applause. She is strongly backed by Mandy Shackleton’s Pitti-Sing and Kylie Bradburn’s Peep-Bo, though ‘Three Little Maids’ just failed to find a crisp edge.

Ashley Wilson’s lyrical tenor makes him a nicely unfussy, thoroughly pleasing Nanki-Poo, even if his “shreds and patches” are rather more Ascot than Headingley. Clive Goodhead turns in his customary strong performance as Pish-Tush, while Ian Small gives us a splendidly haughty Pooh-Bah. Steve Griffiths works Pop Idol into ‘A More Humane Mikado’ and clearly has the measure of his people. Maggie Soper’s first appearance as Katisha could have been more menacing, but she is altogether more convincing after the interval. Spoken dialogue was a little hit-and-miss last night, but in every other respect this is a team show that breathes new life into a golden tradition.

Martin Dreyer




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