What is it about Gilbert and Sullivan? I try and scoff at the dated humour and chorus of ancient schoolgirls, but it’s impossible not to enjoy a song about a snickersnee. And, dare I say, Opera Australia’s current production of The Mikado is slightly better than my high school production in 1984.
Based on a UK production directed Christopher Renshaw, Stuart Maunder directs a fun and joyful Town of Titupu. It pays respect to the G&S traditions (like the fans and re-writing Ko-Kos list) and makes sure that it’s as English as Liberty prints and beans on toast.
Tim Goodchild’s gloriously satirical design clads the gentlemen of Japan in kimonos with bowler hats, brief cases and fans made from The Times and the little maids in wear satchels instead of obis and their kimonos are pastel with lace and hearts so girly that they make a Hello Kitty dress look butch.
The Mikado remains the most popular of these uniquely English operettas. It’s the not-at-all-racist one about the man condemned to death for flirting, who seeks redemption in the love of a teenage schoolgirl, if only she hadn’t caught the eye of a travelling musician. And it’s not at all pervy when each respectable gentleman is paired with a schoolgirl.
It’s best not to read too closely into the story and just enjoy Gilbert’s rarely-equalled word play and absurd story and give in-to tapping your foot to Sullivan’s tunes. Most of the rest of the audience are tapping away anyway.
This is G&S that never loses the love in its parody as Nanki-Poo (Kanen Breen) prances and leaps, Katisha (Jacqueline Dark) snarls in emerald green and high heels and Ko Ko (an inspired choice in musical theatre favourite Mitchell Butel) wheezes and schemes.
The Mikado is as wonderfully daggy as ever and has assured its place as a favourite for another 100 or so years.
* Ok, the only thing good about ours was that we really were schoolgirls “18 and under”.