Sometimes the old classics need a little 21st century reboot. ICW Productions and Mark Barford have updated the perennially popular Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera The Mikado at the Regal Theatre with a lot of flair, new lyrics and a few iGadgets. Taking his visual cues from Japanese Anime and his re-written lyrical cues from current headlines, Barford has given this Victorian British satire a decidedly modern Western Australian slant.
One of the joys of these types of modernisations is the anticipation of seeing what gets reinvented scene by scene; there’s plenty of that to look forward to, although the updates probably won’t upset the traditionalists either.
The simple set (designed by Sara Chirichilli) comprises a bridge and two trees adorned with pink fairy lights and small cherry blossoms; it is beautifully lit with an ever-changing lightscape of pastels designed by Jenny Vila. The costumes (also designed by Chirichillis) range from Sailor Moon-esque, to traditional Japanese, to Bride of Frankenstein/evil Disney queen.
The orchestra, under the musical direction of Ian Westrip (assisted by Jangoo Chapkhana, managed by Robin Evans) is top-notch and underscore the singers nicely. The chorus and some of the featured singers were a little difficult to understand in the first half, and I’m not sure if this was a problem with muddied diction or a side-effect of the body mics. We may have missed some very clever lyrics due to this, but for the most part things cleared up by the second half.
James Berlyn as Ko-Ko is indefatigable. His rendition of ‘I’ve Got a Little List’, which he and director Mark Barford collaborated on to rewrite, is very witty and pointed; he doesn’t miss a beat. He’s got a massive job to do and he does it in his own unique style. Ronald Macqueen as Pooh-Bah lends a bit of that traditional G&S style to the production, and Fleuranne Brockway as Pitti-Sing gives a very strong vocal and character performance in her supporting role. Richard Symons and Elsie Gangemi as Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum are apt in their roles as the young frequently-thwarted lovers.
The plot is of course terribly silly, but mercifully Barford doesn’t go overboard and milk everything to death. There is plenty of movement in the chorus numbers thanks to choreographer Benjamin Franzen, and the women especially look like they are enjoying themselves in their cosplay wigs while they take selfies with their mobiles and strut around seductively in their miniskirts and knee socks.
This isn’t your typical Mikado, but it’s definitely a crowd-pleaser, and will keep your traditionalists happy as well as offer something fun for those who don’t normally put G&S high on their theatre to-do list.