Pros: Lively, lovely and wonderfully funny.
Cons: Hard to find any. No, really, it’s very good!
The Mikado tells the story of a besotted young couple in an impossible situation: boy loves girl, girl is betrothed to a questionable older guy, and never did the path of true love run smoothly. This rendition places the action among school boys in pre-war Britain. There’s a strong atmosphere of scouts and boys’ adventures off at boarding school – it’s classic Britishness at its finest, and there is a wonderful sense of the age of innocence and exploration at the cusp of coming of age in this performance. This is nicely mirrored in the staging – a twilight campsite, where the transition between day and night mirrors that from youth to adulthood, in a way that just works.
Tents, trees and a lantern lights provide just about every scenario needed for the duration of the opera. The cast are cleverly costumed in blandly coloured school boy shorts and suspenders, and the shift into their female counterparts handled effectively by a simple rolling up of the shorts and the addition of a whimsical, Snapchat-worthy, floral headpiece. It’s very reminiscent of A Midsummer Night’s Dream … in a good way.
The actors are excellently cast – Richard Munday as Nanki-Poo is sweet in his love for Alan Richardson’s surprisingly charming Yum Yum. Yum Yum’s ladies in waiting (Richard Russell-Edwards and Jamie Jukes) are funny and enjoyable to watch as they try to compete for the devotions and favour of their friend. David McKechnie is so good as somewhat unfortunate villain Ko-Ko and he’s excellent in reciting his modernised list. It’s delightfully obvious how much the cast seem to be genuinely enjoying their roles; everyone’s actions are fluid and natural, and each performance is delivered with an infectious sense of fun.
Most impressive to me was the way the cross-dressing angle was handled in the production. It’s easy to gain laughs when men dress up as women – and in an all-male production needs must – but even this is done with a lovely nod to the ongoing theme of coming of age and the innocence of childhood exploration. When humorous moments arise, they are classy, not crass, and it’s refreshing that the fluid gender identity is never the sole butt of the joke . Yes, ‘three little maids from school are we’ is extra funny being sung by men, but the comedic approach the actors bring is sophisticated , and the vocal talent on display is stunning.
When it comes to the vocals (it is an Opera after all) the production continues to soar. It is worth seeing solely to hear Alan Richardson as Yum-Yum: every note is perfect; every delivery flawless and his voice is outstanding. The rest of the cast are every bit as good – and the harmonisation on show is excellent.
It’s hard to find fault in this production: indeed, I can’t. The casting is excellent and the performances are top notch, as is the atmosphere created by the staging and lighting. It’s a refreshing take on a questionable classic – and my goodness is it worth seeing.
Authors: W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan
Director/Producer: Sasha Regan
Choreographer: Holly Hughes
Booking Until: 27 May 2017, then touring to Brighton in June
Booking Link: https://www.atgtickets.com/richmond
Box Office: 08448717651