“Do not miss this high-octane show”
Charles Court Opera’s website employs the strapline ‘Masters of Gilbert and Sullivan in small spaces’, and it’s 100% right! The company’s current production at the King’s Head Theatre, Islington is absolutely awesome. If you’re used to watching performances in large venues, such as The Old Vic, it’s easy to forget how much more readily you engage with performers in such small theatres and why the seats closest to the stage cost so much. This production of the Mikado is possibly the best advertisement for watching fringe theatre that I’ve experienced in a long time. The eight energetic, outstanding performers are literally in your face from start to finish. Expect to come home covered in their sweat. Do not miss this show!
Set in The British Consulate, Titipu, Japan, there is barely room to swing a cat. However, the cast swing each other around, jump, run and dance over just enough furniture to set the scene. And all the time singing such amazing, evocative and nostalgic songs as ‘A Wand’ring Minstrel’, ‘Three Little Maids…’ and ‘The flowers that bloom in the spring’. You know it’s going to be a really entertaining and relevant show when Philip Lee, as Ko-Ko, Lord High Executioner of Titipu, reads out his ‘little list’ in ‘As some day it may happen’. This song is always a gift for writers who want to update the lyrics to reflect the news of the day, and musical director David Eaton didn’t disappoint. Many of the world’s leaders made their appearance, as did references to television and media stories of the day.
In many ways, this production of the Mikado is what a good pantomime should be. It had songs, lots of laughs, emotion – if somewhat hammed up, love, goodies and baddies, a complicated story that expects an enormous suspension of disbelief and it all works out fine in the end. Oh, and a man dressed up as a woman. Usually played by a woman, Matthew Siviter’s outstanding portrayal of the spurned Katisha was a revelation and a credit to director John Savournin for his insightful casting. As a panto aficionado, as is my friend who accompanied me to the show, I look forward to seeing Matthew as a pantomime dame, really soon!
In such an excellent production with flawless ensemble playing, it’s essential that every cast member is recognised for their contribution. King’s Head stalwart, Alys Roberts was a vocally-perfect, charming Yum-Yum. Her partner and love interest, Nanki-Poo, was endearingly played by Jack Roberts, whilst Matthew Kellet played Pooh-Bah and Lord High Everything Else with humour and aplomb. Jessica Temple and Corinnne Cowling, as Yum-Yum’s sisters Pitti-Sing and Peep-Bo, alongside Matthew Palmer as the Mikado and Pish-Tush, enthusiastically cemented the show together. All of the singing was lovely and delivered with such intense enjoyment that I doubt that anyone could have a negative word to say about the show. I, for one, am looking forward to Chares Court Opera’s next production – especially if it’s another Gilbert and Sullivan.
Photography: Bill Knight
Director John Savournin
Musical Director David Eaton
Set Designer Rachel Szmukler
Lighting Designer Nicholas Holdridge
Reviewer Deborah Jeffries is a PhD Researcher at the University of East London and Rose Bruford College. Her thesis is entitled ‘Legitimising the Victorian Music Hall’, and it contests the notion of legitimate versus illegitimate theatre. It also investigates theatre architecture, purpose and licensing. She has worked for Hoxton Hall and Wilton’s - two of the UK’s four operational Victorian music halls, as well as the more modern incarnation, Brick Lane Music Hall. Her MA in Drama from Goldsmiths explores the difference between music hall and variety theatre, and the place of each genre in modern popular culture. She has reviewed music and theatre across the UK for over 30 years.