Benny Davis reviews the Calpe Gilbert &Sullivan Society’ production of The Mikado.
CALPE Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s interpretation of The Mikado was wonderful fun from beginning to end. An evening guaranteed to free the minds of all but those deeply entrenched G&S Victorian aficionados of the present financial insecurity and violent times we live.
Philip Ashley’s direction was spot on allowing this fantasy tale of thwarted love, executions, corruption and Japanese pompousness; unfold through easy to understand sequences, allowing individual characters to clearly establish themselves outside what could have been a confusing fusion of operatic dialogue, lyrics and dare I say it – screechy off- key voices.
The basic story revolves around the son of the Mikado of Japan, Nanki-Poo, (Harry Mold) who has run away disguised as a wandering minstrel to avoid an undesirable marriage.
He falls in love with the beautiful Yum-Yum, (Carole Saunders) a ward of Ko-Ko the Lord High Executioner of Titipu, (Philip Ashley) who also intends to marry her.
Another obstacle is Nanki-Poo’s jilted bride Katisha, (Sur Burgess) who to complicate an already complex plot, eventually arrives in the Yum-Yum’s village accompanied by non other than the great man himself, The Mikado of Japan, (Tony Sim) to be told her man has been beheaded – but he hasn’t which leads into all sorts of plot twists and turns until eventually everyone ends up with the partner of their choice, their heads intact and happy ever after.
The production, staged simply in a symbolic black, white and red set, dressed in today’s costumes, had pace, energy and well plotted choreography, interspersed with some extremely humorous almost slapstick moments with topical comment such as the executioners list in ‘Some Day It May Happen’ that included Simon Cowell, Looky-Looky salesmen and those endless teams of Spanish cyclists that hold up traffic for hours on end.
There were too many strong performances to mention all, but I cannot ignore Tony Sim’s wonderful comedy characterisation of The Mikado with his slightly racist ‘flied lice’ Japanese accent, or Harry Mold and his bouncy principal-boy-northern-accent interpretation of the young hero Nanki-Poo.
In complete contrast, we were presented with a very funny music hall double act of Ko-Ko and Pooh-Bah.
Phillips timing and movement as Ko-Ko showed all the hall marks of experience in comedy and provided a direct foil to Peter Williams elegant, languid and terribly sophisticated Poo-Bah.
Carole Saunders giggling, innocent portrayal of Yum-Yum was perfect, well complimented by her two sisters, Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo (Barbie Miller and Vivienne Gingell).
Her voice had a virginal quality that suited the role and was surprisingly strong in the higher ranges, something not usually associated with amateur operatic productions, as were most of the leads especially Sue Burgess as the jilted bride Katasha who also produced a strong supporting performance. Congratulations to all involved.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Of course this is Gilbert &Sullivan which means that Gilbert’s beautifully absurd narratives would fade into insignificance were it not for Sullivan’s memorable melodies, which is where Calpe G&S Society once again scored a triumphant hit with the audience.
Musical Director Aileen Lightfoot and her ensemble in the orchestra pit strongly supported some surprisingly good operatic vocals with excellent arrangements that included the lovely sounds of a four piece string section.
Once the script’s particular brand of silliness whipped into hilarity is established, the cast milks it for all it’s worth.