We’ve been to check out a couple of Sasha Regan’s all-male productions of Gilbert and Sullivan before – we caught The Pirates of Penzance back in 2020 and HMS Pinafore last year. It’s always a delight to return to Wilton’s Music Hall in London – this cosy venue has a wonderful acoustic and makes for an enjoyably intimate experience. It’s a fairly simple production – the music is largely provided by a piano (musical director Anto Buckley is on the keys) although some of the actors add additional instrumentation from the stage, to comic effect.
While it is a fairly authentic retelling of the show in terms of the text and music, a few elements have, thankfully, been updated. Unsurprisingly for an operetta which debuted in 1885, some ideas which may have been accepted at the time are not suitable for the stage in 2023: this production is no longer set in Japan and the characters’ names have been anglicised. The framing device is that, during a school camping trip, the boys discover a dressing up box and start using its contents to re-enact a story from a long time ago in a far away place. This works well – it pokes fun at the British establishment, instead of being a problematic take on a different culture.
In this version of events we are introduced to Bertie Hugh (Declan Egan), a wandering musician of royal descent, who falls for Miss Violet Plumb (Sam Kipling). Alas, both are engaged to wed others – over the ensuing two hours we watch their stories unfold to see if they can attain their happily ever after. As we’ve come to expect from Sasha Regan’s all-male company, it’s a high-camp, comedic affair, but not tastelessly so. The entire show is played as if these were school children acting out their roles; there’s a warm and easy camaraderie between these actors which is a joy to watch.
The set and staging is nothing too ambitious – using the device of a school camping trip, we only really have a tent on the stage, against a backdrop of trees. However, a number of props are used to create some amusing scenes – we don’t want to give away any spoilers, but a sketch involving a game of badminton really tickled us, as did a suggestive moment which made use of a bicycle pump.
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening with The Mikado – it’s a fairly simple production, but it’s a highly entertaining affair nonetheless. It’s a camp, comic operetta, featuring some wonderful songs, beautifully sung, and with a handful of moments of inspired staging – a delight.
GAY TIMES gives The Mikado – 4/5
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