London Coliseum – until 30 November 2019
Ageless? Timeless? Fifteenth revival – what else are you going to do with a light comic operetta about getting beheaded for flirting? Re-locate it to Syria and make the ‘Three Little Maids from School’ jihadi brides?
Thirty-odd years ago when Jonathan Miller re-worked The Mikado for English National Opera and set it in a slightly bonkers grand seaside hotel, he put a shine on it that has been impossible to dull. Time and again, the production comes up fresh as paint and is the perfect antidote to dark days every bit as much now as in 1986 or when Gilbert and Sullivan wrote it in 1885.
It still looks beautiful with Stefanos Laziridis’ cream-on-cream set and Sue Blane’s flapper-era monochrome costumes. Anthony van Laast’s exuberant buck-and-winging choreography has been reprised by Carol Grant and both the ENO Chorus and the dancing ‘domestic staff’ throw themselves into it with gusto.
This is, however, a more stolid revival both in some rather relaxed tempi in the pit which doesn’t have the raw edge of the Titipu town band, but also in the casting of some undoubtedly splendid but also veteran ENO stalwarts in the leads.
John Tomlinson is a mellifluous Mikado but not an especially nimble one, and while Richard Suart has made Ko-Ko his own more or less ever since the original performances with Eric Idle, he looks like he needs reading glasses for the topical ‘little list’ as well as a sharper scriptwriter: the soft targets of Boris, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the Daily Mail were just too obvious.
Yvonne Howard as Katisha is not some ‘caricature of a face’ gorgon, but her own glamorous self who postures imperiously and shows real vulnerability in ‘Alone and Yet Alive’ but still needs more vocal attack to resist the onslaught of the younger cast trying to drown her out. Isn’t Sarah Tynan old enough for it yet?
Soraya Mayfi decorates Yum Yum with a superbly sustained soprano, and plays up the comedy with the occasional flat Lancastrian vowel but as her suitor Nanki-Poo, Elgan Llŷr Thomas sets a new standard in the role with perhaps the most elegant voice yet to have attempted it.
Still grand, still stylish, still the best fun you’ll have at the opera.