|(c) Scott Rylander|
“They are not young ladies…”
If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Sasha Regan alighted on a winning formula with her stripped-back all-male takes on Gilbert and Sullivan’s operettas and has toured the likes of The Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore the length and breadth of the country and even to Australia. So it is little surprise to see her turn to The Mikado (or The Town of Titipu) to see if lightning can strike again with joyous shout and ringing cheer.
The production is set in the grounds of a 1950s-ish school camping trip, a canny move which neatly sidesteps some of the Orientalism issues and refocuses G+S’s satire on the English political establishment. And with the score for solo piano confidently played by musical director Richard Baker, the harmonious meld of the 16-strong company sounds like a dream, and don’t look half bad either delivering Holly Hughes’ effervescent choreography.
There’s more opportunity for the boys playing ladies to cut loose and have some fun and so it is the likes of Richard Russell Edwards as Peep-Bo (superlative comic timing) and Alex Weatherhill as Katisha (also very funny indeed) who steal scenes unashamedly. And Regan ensures that there’s a great deal of humour in the lightness of touch with which the whole show is played – the ‘beauty’ scene, the little chalkboard, the washing lines, the little details really have been thought about.
As the leads, Alan Richardson’s impressive falsetto is tested to its limits as Yum-Yum and Richard Munday is charismatically effective as a boy wonder Nanki-Poo. But for all of the talent on display, this Mikado never quite touches the heart. Part of the issue lies in the lack of clarity with the framing device – how does the ballet in pyjamas fit in? is it all a dream? Regan’s take on Iolanthe gained real heart from the way it was set but here, it’s all just a little bit baffling and so the production suffers a certain loss of emotional investment. It’s by far from fatal though and in some ways, the fact that it never takes itself too seriously is something to be celebrated.