Review: The Mikado

Scottish Opera co-production with D’Oyly Carte Opera Company
Theatre Royal, Glasgow 5 May 2016 – 14 May 2016
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh: 1 Jun – 5 Jun 2016
2 Stars (2 / 5)

The Mikado, a co-production between Scottish Opera and D’Oyly Carte Opera Company directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans revolves around the forbidden love and union between Nanki-Poo and Yum-Yum, further complicated by the law that flirting will be punishable by death. Unfortunately, the comedy classic neither captivates nor is funny. Despite being a witty piece of writing, this production depends on every outdated trope available to squeeze laughs out of the audience.

Credits to the conductors and the D’Oyly Carte Orchestra for their musicianship. Onstage performers, however skillful in their singing, lack the technique and flair for sharp witty comedy, falling back instead onto cliché slapstick and hollow melodrama. While the tongue-in-cheek political commentary resonates with the audience, one simply has to question the necessity of reviving The Mikado in such a style that has not been tastefully executed at all. Apart from relevant contemporary references cheekily written into the popular tune “I’ve Got A Little List”, the production’s attempt at “exquisite Japanese tradition” is far from accurate. Almost everything about Dick Bird’s set and costumes are a reflection of a simplified Eurocentric impression of Japanese culture with the set being a confused mash of various time periods and locations. Most of the words randomly and shabbily painted onto the paper screens are random Chinese characters, and the costumes are a painful mix between Japanese clothing and bloomers.

Overall, the production fails to live up to the cleverness of Gilbert & Sullivan’s libretto (sans offensive character names), and can certainly afford to be more current in its execution without relying on cheap gimmicks.