Review: Hot Mikado

Hugo Schmidt 3 June 2012

Hot Mikado

ADC Mainshow, 7.45pm, until Sat 9th June

A clever re-imagining that puts Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic in a club of the Roaring Twenties (recurring joke: “This is in Japanese. Wait a minute, we are in Japan!”), ‘Hot Mikado’ spills over with the spirit of the duo in a blaze of primary colours. Quite literally: the entire cast comes colour coded. The native residents of Titipu are dressed in zoot-suits and flapper dresses of bright red, orange, green and blue (in homage to the original kimonos of Japan), while the out-of-towners have distinctly more muted tones; meanwhile the Mikado (Rich Evans) himself is kitted out in the black suit and suspenders of a mob-boss.

Many of the dances and some of the songs are similarly updated, some apparently by the Festival Players themselves (in ‘Let the Punishment Fit the Crime”, there are some decidedly irreverent lyrics about our coalition government); yet this was done with sufficient skill to fit directly into the justly famous word-play and humour.

However, there was one major difficulty in this production: although the band, who were included on the set in a classic cabaret setting, played well, moving between the original score to the jazz as smoothly as the D’Oyly Carte, someone in the sound department must have slipped up. In the first act the music was often so loud that the singers’ lyrics became unintelligible. This simply will not do; a Gilbert and Sullivan production stands or falls by the audience becoming caught up in the puns and raunchy humour, and it is a great shame that much of the players’ flawless performance was drowned out. Fortunately somebody managed to correct this for the second half, allowing for a real treat in Katisha and Ko-Ko’s duet. Singing and choreography generally was top-notch; I looked for the dropped note and muffed gesture and failed to find it.

‘Hot Mikado’ is no place for artistic restraint, so it’s good to find none, but the cast still resisted the temptation to go too far. The love isosceles between Nanki Poo (Ismael Clark), Ko-Ko (Alastair Horne) and Yum-Yum (Toni Grantham) had the ideal pantomime absurdity, with the right dash of emotion to prevent it being either foolish or mawkish. Another performance worthy of mention was that of Warren Clark as Pooh-Bah; as inheritor of all the non-Executioner titles, from Archbishop to Chancellor of the Exchequer, he handled his role with deadpan delivery that drew howls of laughter from the audience.

All in all, a very fine piece of work, and I recommend it highly, especially if they get someone to sort out that sound system.

Hugo Schmidt