The opening night of Martin Lloyd-Evans’ colourful new production of The Mikado seemed as if it was being thrust on us before it was truly watertight. It has potential, but it didn’t hit the ground running.
It does look good
A recurring aspect of Scottish Opera’s productions these days is that they take a while to warm up. Has rehearsal time been cut back along with everything else? That’s a problem with G&S, especially for a professional company tackling what amateur ones do pretty well and which other professional outfits have done superbly. It does look good, though.
Dick Bird’s designs do exactly what’s required to make a Victorian period piece look fresh and relevant: a delightful fusion of Japan-meets-British Bulldog, both in the tasteful scenic artwork and the culturally confused clothing. However, the promise falls short when it comes to the performance itself. Sure, the dancing decapitated heads of the opening scene are a tantalising touch: quirky, macabre and funny.
Richard Suart’s Ko-Ko, delivered in his very best Del Boy accent with a sardonic hint of Dudley Moore, has its best intentions suppressed by the singer’s tendency to rush key lines. I found myself looking at the subtitles for help – crazy, you’d think, when it’s all in English! Yet Suart remains, as he should, the lynchpin, his character acting convincing, and his neatly turned duetting in ‘Tit Willow’ with stuffed bird a gem of a conclusion. Around him revolves as mad a Gilbertian troupe as ever.
Stephen Richardson’s Mikado is imperious with a smidgeon of pompous buffoon. Rebecca de Pont Davies’ Katisha, a hideous Gothic hag, fulf ls the dark side of the satire, her wholesome alto scouring the vocal depths with conviction. There’s a delicate charm in Rebecca Bottone’s Yum-Yum, and a Yes Minister-ish drollness in Andrew Shore’s Pooh-Bah. Nicholas Sharratt was a slow starter as Nanki-Poo, a little pedantic in the humour stakes, though the simple honesty of his portrayal could nail it as the UK- wide run continues.
There were lovely moments, too, from the Three Little Maids and the female chorus. Nonetheless, there were major first night problems with the music. Under Derek Clark, the Scottish Opera Orchestra was lacklustre, despite this being one of Sullivan’s most interesting scores. More critically, the synchronisation between orchestra and chorus was way out at times, and untidiness in the choreography robbed many big numbers of their pizzazz. Hopefully, the best is yet to come