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THE MIKADO

Tabard Theatre, The Mikado, Tabard Theatre, Chiswick, ReviewThe current trend for modernising Gilbert & Sullivan operettas shows no sign of easing up any time in the near future and if the Tabard Theatre’s new adaptation of their most famous work is anything to go by then long may it continue.

The Mikado, like all G& S works, is a farce of ridiculous proportions, with interwoven melodrama and the need for crisp enunciation. Matthew Johnson has created a hugely enjoyable production of high camp confusion set in an upper-class golf club, full of the wonderfully gentrified characters.

Michael Riseley has the perfect voice for the young tenor lead, which is often something missing in modern day operetta productions. Thankfully he also has the stage presence to carry it off, and when working opposite someone like Emily Davies, who it seems G & S is written specifically for, that is a must. Miss Davies’ Yum-Yum is one of the highlights of the show. Her melodious soprano is married beautifully with impeccable comedic timing and naive innocence. This naivety is offset hilariously by the other ‘Little Maids’, especially Michelle Whitney who appears to be playing Made in Chelsea by way of Grange Hill. G & S stalwart, Stiofan O’Doherty, gives maniacal Mikado with his deeply-rich bass, and Andrew Pugsley’s Pooh-Ba has brilliant comedy moments throughout.

It’s Suzanna Kempner, however, who completely runs away with the show. Barrelling around the stage like a woman possessed, she is a bunny-boiling Eliza Doolittle with the vocal ability to match her physicality. Her characterisation is so grandiose that it could be too much in the small theatre of The Tabard, yet it never feels over-the-top or unnecessary. I imagine Gilbert & Sullivan has very rarely been performed with such vehement gusto…or in hot pants.Tabard Theatre, The Mikado, Tabard Theatre, Chiswick, Review 2

I always enjoy what designers are able to do with the Tabard’s limited space, and with The Mikado, Christopher Hone has created a vibrant, workable space that keeps in mind the original’s Japanese setting and this production’s affluent environs.

I am often quite averse to hugely modernising classics, whether it be through inclusion of new technology, up-to-date language or overtly contemporary references. I’m glad to say that the iPads, celebrity mockings and horsemeat scandals included not only lend themselves to enhancing the re-imagining, but further the comedy in the G & S style.

Yes it may be a bit melodramatic, it may be a bit ridiculous and unbelievable, and it may well even be a little overly camp at times but the Tabard Theatre’s new working of The Mikado is brilliantly enjoyable and includes some incredible young actors. Gilbert & Sullivan may sound as far from contemporary musical theatre as one could possibly get but as this production illustrates, there is very much a place for old-school operettas in the modern theatrical world.

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Reviewed 22/02/13

By Thomas Norman
@Tom_Norm

20th Feb – 17th Mar 2013
Tabard Theatre, London, W4.

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