What NODA thought …
Dorothy Johnstone attended our Saturday matinée and reported on behalf of NODA:
The Mikado is an operetta I know particularly well, so I thought I pretty much knew what to expect from this production. How wrong I was. The curtain rose to reveal the Gentlemen of Titipu in casual trousers, shirts and waistcoats wearing brightly-coloured bowler-type hats alongside the Ladies of Titipu in fluorescent wigs, black trousers or long skirts underneath a white open kimono-type dressing gown. Then the arrival of Nanki-Poo casually dressed with a black leather jacket and carrying a trombone, followed by three little maids in figure-hugging short black dresses which at times got lost against the black ramps and scaffolding which made up the set. No traditional colourful Japanese set or orange blossom. And not a fan in sight … I must confess that it took me a little time to get used to what I was seeing, but when I did I found the concept of this production quirky and intriguing. Rectangular boxes moved cleverly around the stage helped to create different playing levels, although at times this was a little distracting. Another twist was Ko-Ko being played by a female and Katisha played by a man.
Although this was certainly a very different, innovative production, the score and script remained true to the work of Gilbert and Sullivan. The standard of singing by both the chorus and principal characters was extremely high and maintained throughout. Yum-Yum (Lindsey Cotter), Pitti -Sing (Katy Williamson) and Peep-Bo (Sinead Black) blended well vocally. Nanki-Poo (Alex Gunn) had a most pleasing light tenor voice which contrasted well with the resounding bass voice of Pooh-Bah (George Alexander), Lord High Everything Else and Pish-Tush (Martin Tarr). The Mikado (Matthew Sielewicz), complete with top hat and short jacket, also gave a strong impressive performance.
There were certainly some high-standard characterisations in this production but, in my opinion, the Oscar-winning performance was Susanne Horsburgh’s Ko-Ko. Scurrying about the stage, swinging from scaffolding, and with brilliant comic timing, this really was a brilliant performance which kept the show moving along at a great pace. Robin Ozog’s Katisha, the only character in Japanese costume, was also a tour de force. “Alone and yet alive” was beautifully sung, and for me was one of the show’s highlights. These two characters interacted brilliantly. “Tit Willow” and “Beauty in the bellow of the blast” were both excellent. Act 2 has some gorgeous small ensemble numbers such as “The flowers that bloom in the Spring” and the Madrigal, and the harmonies in these numbers came through very well indeed.
This was undoubtedly a very different Mikado from any other I have ever seen or performed in and I have the greatest admiration for the director and the company for taking up the challenge of doing something totally different. I am sure there will be some who prefer to stick to tradition but, if the audience response was anything to go by, this was a most successful venture.
It was also a pleasure to present nine long service awards at the end of the production.