Monday, 19 August 2013

Fusion Theatre Belfast: The Mikado

The beginning of the Festival was marked with a Mikado with every member over sixty, performed as an exact replica of the classic staging, down to the last fan movement. The end of the Festival is marked with a Mikado with every member under twenty-five, with extremely non-classic direction, choreography, and even orchestration (two keyboards, two guitars, and two percussionists). The characters Gilbert wrote and the melodies Sullivan composed can be recognized in many forms.

This would have to be the largest chorus I've ever seen on the PAC stage, and for good reason. With no less than seventy (or so I'm told - they never stood still long enough to be counted), the finales were a smidge crowded! Dressing rooms would have had to be used in shifts, and the Keith Park/11 Group style "Small Wings" were constantly an issue (especially with the upstage cloth, which billowed when people walked behind it). Many of the performers were quite young, ranging down to, I'd guess, about four or five years old. And somehow, this huge company was brought together with a precision that compares reasonably with the professional G&S Opera Company, whose praises I have sung here on many occasions for that exact reason. And their energy! I swear you could run the entire lighting rig off this chorus, if you could just harness them somehow! This after they'd already given a matinee the same day, AND there was a cabaret afterwards (which I wasn't able to see, alas); must be something they're doing pretty amazingly right over in Ireland!

As I said, the characters were perfectly recognizable in this modern take. Pooh-Bah (Gareth Brow) likes his monies, and prefers cash down to PayPal - and frankly, I don't blame him. Nanki-Poo (Conor Carson) is a poor musician, in every sense of the word, despite not being a Second Trombone, but instead a lead electric guitar(ist!)ist. Ko-Ko (Conal Corr) has his list of unwanted persons on a brandless tablet computer, though he hasn't completely eschewed paper, for the speech he (very badly) reads Katisha (Orla McCormick) was provided - by Pitti-Sing (Jessica Webb) - on paper. The Mikado (Rory McCollum) is every bit in charge, as always, though I got the distinct impression that Pish-Tush (Matthew Good) had more influence on what actually happened around the place, simply by virtue of doing the work. And Yum-Yum (Hannah Conlon), daughter-in-law elected, knew how to sway a crowd - all she had to do was pull out a flag, and everyone started in on what must have been the schoolgirl version of their national cry, I think; every member of the chorus pulled out a Japanese flag (demonstrating a flag-production deftness that I normally see only with Savoynet curtain calls) and joined in the tornado. Yes, this was undoubtedly The Mikado, if a somewhat hacked-up one!

Many of the PAC shows have felt a little over-miked; I'm aware that miking a live performance perfectly is nearly impossible, so this is not to say that anybody's been incompetent, but this is simply a consequence of the performing space. But with Fusion's Mikado, the clear and obvious miking actually seemed to fit the style quite well.

Above all, these performers were having fun, and loads of it. Laugh lines were injected into the script, everyone bubbled with wit and good humour, and their energy and enthusiasm carried across to us. A highly entertaining final performance of the Festival, and deservedly the winners of the Adjudicator's Award for their choreography.

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