Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Edinburgh G&S: The Mikado

Quite a good house - and I was there for the performance! The Mikado is generally a popular show, so it's no surprise that it's packing in the audience tonight. Not completely sold out but it's only the restricted viewing seats and the sides of the gallery that have empty space in them. And, unlike the Pirates we saw on Saturday, the boxes are in use too. Quite a few children in the audience (my apologies, Mr Bah - "young persons"), which is all to the good.

Rather than following the traditional running order, this performance reverted to the opening night arrangement - The Sun Whose Rays was sung in the first act, and the Little List song wasn't until Ko-Ko knew he needed to behead someone. Also, Were You Not To Ko-Ko Plighted had two verses; unfortunately, Yum-Yum's diction was not quite as good as I might have liked, and some of the words were lost. I can see why the now-traditional edits were made, but as a variant Mikado, this worked well. (Incidentally, the "bassoon chuckle" from Three Little Maids was kept. Those bars would sound a bit empty without it!)

Speaking of traditional, there were a couple of shout-outs in the Little List song, including to the "adjudicationist" (and yes, this year we have a female adjudicator, so she fits in the Singular Anomaly slot) and "Anyone named Smith". As always with any such changes to words, diction is crucial, and Ko-Ko (Geoff Lee) delivered every consonant to the gallery. I do harp on about that a bit, but it really is important; poor diction destroys numbers, but excellent diction can prevent what could otherwise have been a problem - such as when the Mikado (Ian Lawson) and Katisha (Fiona Main) were all the way upstage for "From every kind of man", but could still be understood. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of Nanki-Poo (Scott Barron), whose lines sometimes didn't quite get all the way up to the ceiling; however, he gave a highly entertaining performance, particularly in duet with Yum-Yum (Gillian Robertson); if you're already familiar with the words, it's not as great a loss as it might be. And he performed with great energy, which is always a good thing. Yum-Yum carried her emotions strongly, being quite definitely "distracted" when Nanki's death was announced, and giving enthusiastic approval to the notion of a Ko-Ko/Katisha marriage. Pitti-Sing (Rae Lamond) also gave a strong performance, buoying scenes along with her anger or approval, and trying - unsuccessfully - to keep Pooh-Bah (Matthew Stanhope) from making a fool of himself in front of the Mikado, by seeking payment for singing his verse of "Criminal Cried". He had all the haughtiness that his history could boast, the unbalancing power of ancestral recall being ridiculously exploited; but he was too useful to be ignored. (Although, even light insults would add up - it would get quite expensive to do things in Titipu.) The functional functionary Pish-Tush (Andrew Edmonstone), and the lesser Go-To (Andrew Crawford), had figured out how to treat Pooh-Bah and were doing themselves fairly well; both performers demonstrated the energy and presence necessary to keep the show alive.

I was a little disappointed with the lighting in a few places, with the four corners of the stage all being quite dark at times, but the "evil lighting state" for Katisha was effective, and "The hour of gladness" in near darkness on a nearly empty stage was decent. "Brightly Dawns Our Wedding Day" had everything in darkness upstage, except for one odd puddle of yellowish light - I was left wondering if something would happen there, but nothing did.

Ensemble synchronization was quite good tonight. (Yes, that's another thing I harp on about.) Not as crisp as in Saturday's Pirates, but more noticeable - the simultaneous fan movements can be heard as well as seen. Some of the staging felt a little static early on, but improved by the second act. Harmonic balance wasn't bad; Sullivan's lovely alto lines came through beautifully. The show was hilarious fun, pork pie encores particularly so, and tonight's cabaret was worth waiting for. A long night and a fun one!

No comments: