Tag Archives: Charles Court Opera

The Mikado – 5 Stars


The Mikado

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 27th March 2018


“This production has no weak points, and provides frequent moments of genuine hilarity”


The Mikado was first performed in 1885, when the British Empire was at its height, and Japan was seen as an utterly alien but intriguing nation. Japanese objects and artefacts were all the rage, and Gilbert and Sullivan tapped into this Japanophilia to satirise English governmental bureaucracy – creating a sort of 19th century musical version of Yes Minister.

In this current production, by the Charles Court Opera at The King’s Head, Glenn Miller’s jaunty hit, Chattanooga Choo Choo, plays as we take our seats, and places us firmly in the 1940s. Together with the gentle amber glow of the stage, carpeted and comfortably furnished with a Chesterfield sofa and other accoutrements of a gentleman’s club of the period, the tone is set for this tremendous production, which sparkles with joy and warmth. The choice of setting also sensitively and cleverly deals with the potential pitfalls of cultural appropriation, with Rachel Szmukler’s beautiful painted Japanese-style wall panels providing the perfect visual reference point in an otherwise British colonial environment. The cast – with the notable exception of Philip Lee’s splendid déclassé outsider Ko-Ko – speak and sing in heightened RP, which pokes affectionate fun at this most ludicrous of stories, whilst at the same time celebrating its enduring appeal.

It is clear from the first number that we are in good hands; the three opening singers (Matthew Palmer, Philip Lee and Matthew Kellett) in fine voice, relish the crisp fun of W. S. Gilbert’s peerless lyrics, and Damian Czarnecki’s choreography is tight and snappy to match. David Eaton’s faultless accompaniment, from an upright piano in the corner of the stage, sets the pace, and never lacks energy, even in the few moments when the operetta’s frenzied clip gives way to a more romantic or contemplative interlude. John Savournin directs with surety and panache, and David Eaton’s musical direction, plus superlative work from the show’s young cast, ensure that not a word or note is lost. This surely is the way to see Gilbert and Sullivan, in order to savour every fabulous rhyme and cherish every melody in this frenetically brilliant score.

This production has no weak points, and provides frequent moments of genuine hilarity, not least in the terrific contemporary updates in the perennial favourite ‘I’ve got a Little List’. In the midst of such a rollicking good time it can often be difficult to carry the audience into more poignant territory, but this is ably done throughout, and special mention must go here to the wonderfully affecting rendition of Katisha’s solo ‘Alone and yet alive’ by Matthew Siveter. Alys Roberts and Jack Roberts are perfectly cast as the young lovers Yum-Yum and Nanki-Poo; Alys Roberts’ exquisite soprano ranging effortlessly from effervescence to sweet romance, and blending beautifully with Jack Roberts’ crystal clear tenor. Matthew Palmer, Matthew Kellett and Philip Lee are terrific throughout, both vocally and comically, and Jessica Temple and Corinne Cowling fizz with girlish glee as Yum-Yum’s companions. Whether you are are new to The Mikado or already a fan, this production simply cannot be bettered. It deserves every accolade that will undoubtedly come its way.


Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Bill Knight


The Mikado

King’s Head Theatre until 21st April



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Review of King Tut – A Pyramid Panto – 4 Stars


King Tut – A Pyramid Panto

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 28th November 2017


“wickedly funny, and performed with great gusto”


If you are looking for some rather bonkers fun this is for you. The last time I went to a panto it was with small children. It was enjoyable, but earsplitting and really for the kids, so I didn’t think pantomime was my thing. However, King Tut – A Pyramid Panto has really changed my mind. It’s definitely not for the kids (though there are some family friendly shows in the run) and it is absolutely hilarious! It is quite a feat, on press night, to have the whole audience singing silly songs, yelling ‘don’t do it!’ and generally having a jolly good time. With a good range of fart jokes, sly contemporary references and lots of familiar tunes (with very different lyrics!), King Tut delights. It is wickedly funny, and performed with great gusto and musical virtuosity by Charles Court Opera.

The story is, very, very, loosely, based on Howard Carter’s expedition to discover the tomb of Tutankhamen. Except this Carter goes back in time and meets the young Pharaoh in person. The ensemble singing is pitch perfect and the singers are also excellent and energetic actors.

All pantomimes need a great villain and John Savournin’s Lord Conniving is a treat. He blusters and swaggers, inviting boos and hisses from the willing audience and singing up a storm with his rich, powerful bass-baritone. He has impeccable comic timing and a natural sense of how to get the audience involved. He is also the writer and director of this wonderful romp. Matt J Ward is endearing as a lovestruck and rather hapless Howard Carter and his excruciating awkwardness and ‘particular difficulty’ in getting close to the lovely Evelyn become an ongoing daft and giggle inducing theme. Evelyn is played with unaffected warmth by Francesca Fenech, and she and Ward had us rooting for the successful start of their relationship. If you want to know if they get together you will have to see the show!

King Tut is played with street style and bravado by the exquisite welsh soprano Alys Roberts. She is small enough to play the boy king, with a voice big enough to fill the space with effortless ease. A voice that can soar to the rafters in her higher range and also take on pop and rap silliness without sounding forced. The final cast member is Philip Lee who plays the porter, the camel and the gameshow host. He is a comic chameleon, inhabiting each character with relish. His lovable camel gallops from gleeful to poignant, and he seems to channel the spirit of Bruce Forsyth when he appears to host the gameshow. He also has a gorgeous tenor voice and fantastic physicality. Dave Jennings is on percussion, and his head makes a brief appearance at one point.

With those panto must-haves of a shimmering set (Sean Turner) and slightly OTT costumes (Mia Wallden), King Tut is a great evening out. Why not get some friends together and grab some tickets? You won’t regret it!


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by William Knight





is at the King’s Head Theatre until 6th January



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