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The Mikado

The Mikado


Wilton’s Music Hall

THE MIKADO at Wilton’s Music Hall


The Mikado

grabs you by the cheeks, pulling them out into the widest smile


With a backdrop of tall slender trees silhouetted against a mist of dusky blue light, sits a solitary tent. There is an Englishness that removes the location as far away as possible from the fictitious Japanese town of Titipu, further emphasized by the main characters being renamed as though they have all wandered in from a ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ story. There is no discernible reason for the resetting, but it is immediately clear that this is going to be lot of fun indeed. With lashings of laughs. Sasha Regan’s all-male “The Mikado”, which first toured in 2017, is a topsy-turvy romp that, despite having only one tent as the central scenic prop, is as camp as a whole row of them.

Kimonos and fans are replaced by baggy shorts and cricket bats in a world where Enid Blyton has collaborated with Morecambe and Wise. As inventive as it is confusing, at least it has done away with the cutesy but dated and potentially disrespectful Japanese monikers. Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s estranged son disguised as a wandering minstrel, is now Bertie Hugh. Central love interest Yum-Yum becomes Miss Plumb. Pooh-Bah is Albert Barr, Pish-Tush, Wilfred Lush… well, you get the drift. Except that the town’s name is left intact. Here, in Titipu (‘titter ye not’, boys and girls) it has been decreed by the Mikado (Lewis Kennedy) that all flirting is punishable by death. His son and heir, Bertie Hugh (Declan Egan) has fled to escape an arranged marriage to Kitty Shaw (Christopher Hewitt). Disguised as a wandering minstrel, Bertie returns to court his true love Miss Violet Plumb (Sam Kipling), only to discover she is betrothed to Mr Cocoa (David McKechnie) the High Executioner.

A fairly conventional basis for the farcical plot twists that unravel from it. Boy loves girl. Both are unhappily betrothed to others. Yet the fanciful and completely loopy laws of Titipu add spice to the conundrum. Unrequited love is one thing – being buried alive or beheaded is another thing entirely. It is highly enjoyable and highly silly in equal measure. Even if the 1950s scout-camp setting doesn’t necessarily have a point, the updating and adaptation of W. S. Gilbert’s libretto is ingeniously witty and clever. But what brings this production to vivid life is the performances from a superbly talented company. Led by Musical Director Anto Buckley on piano, Arthur Sullivan’s score is held in high respect and delivered beautifully by this all-male ensemble. They instinctively know the nuances and can marry the comedy with the emotional force required by the compositions.

The beauty of Buckley’s solo piano accompaniment allows the voices to shine; undiluted, unadulterated and unenhanced by technical wizardry. Sam Kipling’s solo – the gorgeous ‘The Sun, Whose Rays are All Ablaze” is a shimmering example, with not a false note to the falsetto. David McKechnie’s scheming, wide boy Mr Cocoa belies a purity of voice, as does Declan Egan’s bumbling Bertie. Christopher Hewitt’s jilted Kitty Shaw is rich in tone and comic flair, particularly during his solo, ‘Alone, and yet Alive’. When the company all comes together in harmony the effect is mesmerising: a gorgeous juxtaposition of virtuoso singing with the spirit of burlesque.

The book contains many of the stock paradoxes and Catch-22 quandaries inherent in Gilbert and Sullivan’s works. Regan’s setting is a little conflicting and confusing, but once you’ve accepted it, the joy of this fun-filled production reaches out and grabs you by the heart. It also grabs you by the cheeks, pulling them out into the widest smile. Sometimes it feels as though the cast are enjoying themselves a little too much. However, it always feels as though the audience are enjoying it more.



Reviewed on 9th June 2023

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Ruddigore | ★★★ | March 2023
Charlie and Stan | ★★★★★ | January 2023
A Dead Body In Taos | ★★★ | October 2022
Patience | ★★★★ | August 2022
Starcrossed | ★★★★ | June 2022
The Ballad of Maria Marten | ★★★½ | February 2022
The Child in the Snow | ★★★ | December 2021
Roots | ★★★★★ | October 2021

Click here to read all our latest reviews


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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