Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Harrogate G&S Society: The Mikado

Regular readers of this blog will know that I admire precision and look for it in every show I review. It's especially important in The Mikado, where every member of the chorus has a fan and can (and should, on many occasions) make a clear and sharp noise with it. And so I was looking out for some sharp fan movements in the opening chorus, with an entire stageful of Japanese noblemen giving a simultaneous 'clack'. It didn't happen. In fact, I would have to describe the opening as "precise chaos" - I don't know how many groups they were in (at least four), but each group clacked its fans at a different time. There was constant movement on the stage, worthy of an Iolanthe, and rather more active than the first one this Festival!

We've been seeing Harrogate references in a few of the shows at this Festival, so it'd be disappointing to not have at least some localization in Ko-Ko's little list. What we got was three completely rewritten verses, incorporating topical and local references, self-deprecation, and shout-outs to the Smiths and to the adjudicator. I'd have to call it a highlight of the show, though no doubt there'll be those who believe that any change is sacrilege. (But be careful next time; unrolling the List into the orchestra pit won't endear you to the hard-working players. Fortunately one of the chorus stepped in and caught it before it rolled off the edge!)

This production runs on the Rule of Funny, as a comic opera should. Ko-Ko (Philip Jennings) is of course the king of that (snapping his finger in a sword, retrieving the severed digit from the floor and reattaching it), but Nanki-Poo (Colin Belsey) and Pooh-Bah (David MacDonald) also put in their moments of madness. Many of the actual jokes were tried-and-true, but with some tweaks too; the three little maids (Rachel Warren, Liz Kelley, Alex Bird) leaning in on Nanki "in a month you're to be-be-be-be-be-be-be-be-be-be-be-beheaded" sounded like a glitching CD. The Mikado (Donald Stephenson) nearly stole a scene by flirting upstage with Pitti-Sing while his daughter-in-law elect rambled on about her physical attractiveness. Pish-Tush (Arthur Berwick) hardly needs to invent his own business, as Gilbert has provided him with plenty; all it takes is decent comedic timing and he's quite funny. But the funniest moment, I think, would have to have been from Katisha (Valerie Green), and this may have been completely accidental; the scream she gave (and, by the way, she demonstrated that scream several times) on discovering the name on the death certificate sounded as if the document was trying to self-destruct in her hands! In any case, it was a VERY solid scream.

Lighting had a few neat tricks to it. During "The Sun Whose Rays", we saw a shaft of sunlight for the first verse, and moonlight for the second. Katisha was greeted with a flood of red (which looks great live, but terrible on camera), and her "Hour of gladness" moment had the same red. But mainly, it was that unobvious supportive state - it takes a lot of work to be completely unnoticed, and for most of the show, that's what it was.

A well-sung and well-danced Mikado. I have seen many worse than this.

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