NANKI-POO, Ko-Ko, Peep Bo, Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing, and Pish Tush are all to be found on the stage of the Festival Theatre this week, which can mean but one thing – Gilbert and Sullivan’s much-loved comic classic The Mikado has returned to the Capital, this time courtesy of Scottish Opera and D’Oyly Carte Opera Company.
Written in 1885 and set in the fictional Japanese town of Titipu in the 1880s, The Mikado satirises British society, customs and pretensions through a farcical plot with gags aplenty. A perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with opera, the story goes like this: The Mikado has decreed that those caught flirting should be sentenced to death.
However, things take a complicated turn when his son Nanki-Poo falls for Yum-Yum, whose beauty has also caught the eye of Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner.
Featuring many of Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular songs, including A Wand’ring Minstrel I, Three Little Maids from School Are We and I’ve Got a Little List, The Mikado is entertainment for all the family.
Martin Lloyd-Evans returns to Scottish Opera to direct a cast that includes Gilbert and Sullivan stalwart Richard Suart as Ko-Ko, Nicholas Sharratt as Nanki-Poo, Rebecca Bottone as Yum-Yum, and Sioned Gwen Davies as Pitti-Sing. Baritone Stephen Richardson plays the Mikado, while comic genius Andrew Shore is Pooh-Bah and Ben McAteer is Pish-Tush.
Lloyd-Evans says: “Make no mistake, The Mikado is as much about Japan as Yes, Minister. Transposing his satire to an exotic, and at the time very popular culture, enabled Gilbert to cut all the more deeply into his target – the British ruling classes.
“Over-zealous policy-making heedless of the impact on the populace, the self-serving ambition of the entitled few – how little has changed since Victorian times.
“At the heart of all this satire, carried by Sullivan’s musical brilliance, The Mikado aims to give the audience a great night out.”
Lloyd-Evans adds: “We’ve tried to create a setting which not only gives voice to The Mikado’s satirical edge, but also captures the unfettered fun and frolic of live Victorian theatre.”
This tale is brought to life with stunning costumes and eye-catching designs by Dick Bird, who created the sets of Kate Bush’s Before The Dawn shows. He says he has been inspired as much by the Orientalism of the piece, as by its roots in 19th-century British Music Hall.
“It’s no great revelation that Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado is a lot more about England and the English than it is about Japan,” he says.
“In a spirit that we feel is very close to the original, our production collides the great Victorian Music Hall with high Japanese art.
“I hope we’ve found a new way to be irreverent and subversive with two cultures we truly admire and adore.”
Founded by Alexander Gibson in 1962, Scottish Opera is Scotland’s national opera company and Scotland’s largest performing arts organisation.
The Mikado, Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street, until Saturday, 7.15pm, and Sunday, 4pm, £18-£80.50, 0131-529 6000