Set in the 1950s on a private school camping trip Sasha Regan’s All Male The Mikado presents us with a new twist on an old classic. The famous Gilbert & Sullivan musical is freshened up in this touring production which makes Salford’s Lowry Theatre its last stop, running until July 29.
As with her previous all-male Gilbert & Sullivan productions, such as HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance, Regan delights in ramping up the cheekiness and playful tone of the show with antics which wouldn’t be amiss in a Monty Python film. The show starts with a balletic overture to set the scene for what is to come with boys who wouldn’t look out of place in a Famous Five novel playing pranks on each other, perfectly choreographed by Holly Hughes.
For those unfamiliar with The Mikado it follows the story of travelling musician Nanki-Poo (Richard Munday)who is searching for the love of his life Yum-Yum (Alan Richardson) who is betrothed and about to marry her cousin Ko-Ko (David McKechnie). Ko-Ko however has just been saved from a beheading for flirting and in a crazy turn of events has appointed Lord High Executioner. When Nanki-Poo arrives in the town of Titipu to claim Yum-Yum he has not only has Ko-Ko to face but also has a secret to reveal.
Admittedly this Gilbert and Sullivan has a number of twists and turns which make it hard to keep up but with Regan’s additional changes to boot it proves a tricky first watch for newcomers to G & S. Regan’s switch from the standard Japan setting and kimono wearing cast to a quintessentially English woods with a group of ‘jolly hockey sticks’ boys in vests and shorts takes a while to get used to but by Act Two you are able to just sit back and enjoy the thoroughly entertaining action. Yes, Regan’s move is brave but it works. It’s camp, clever and extremely witty.
There’s some simple devices used to full effect- those in the cast playing female roles rolling up their shorts to turn them into girls and ramping up their feminine mannerisms. Playing on the ‘twee’ English theme there’s also the use of cricket bats to symbolise an axe and straw hats loaded on top of each other to display a persons’ rank. It may tick lots of school boy boxes but by no means does it have the feel of a school production, this version of The Mikado is polished and well thought out. The frequent use of innuendo has the audience tittering away with the hanging of signs outside the boys’ tents saying phrases like ‘no ball games’ and the ‘nod-nod wink-wink’ timing of the bicycle pumping from Alex Weatherhill’s Katisha.
The cast are made up of a variety of voices from baritones, to sopranoes, working in unison to produce a lovely sound. Alan Richardson has a glass shattering falsetto which beggars belief that it comes out of a male body. His facial expressions as Yum-Yum are hilarious and Richardson makes the most of every line adding an extra bit of comedy on to each one.
David McKechnie is also brilliant as the scheming Ko Ko, his cockney wise guy act has a real feel of Fagin about it which makes you think he might burst into You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two at any minute. McKechnie commands the stage and makes it hard for you not to adore the loveable rogue by the end.
Elsewhere Richard Russell Edwards as Peep-Bo and Jamie Jukes as Pitti-Sing raise the camp levels with their fabulous portrayals of Yum-Yum’s friends and a special mention must go to Musical Director Richard Baker who does a sterling job playing the solo piano throughout, tinkling the ivories through a massive 26 Gilbert & Sullivan songs whilst also conducting the cast.
A rapturous applause at the jovial finale showed the seal of approval from the audience, made up of what looked to be a number of G & S devotees, proving Sasha Regan’s latest offering is yet another success to add to her list.
If you want a Gilbert and Sullivan for 2017 then you should definitely give Sasha Regan’s All Male The Mikado a try.
Runs at The Lowry until 29th July