REVIEW: The Mikado, Eastbourne Gilbert & Sullivan Society by Roger Paine

A scene from The Mikado
A scene from The Mikado

MANY different versions of The Mikado have been staged worldwide for over a century but Eastbourne Gilbert & Sullivan Society presented the most performed of the Victorian duo’s operas in traditional format.

Even if Gilbert’s libretto was occasionally laced with contemporary references to small-screen entertainment, including ‘The Weakest Link’ and ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’.

Honourable acknowledgement that originally most G&S works were, one way or another, thinly disguised parodies of the politics and mores of their day.

For this production the Society introduced three newcomers. Adam Hepkin was not only the director and choreographer but also played the role of Ko-Ko (Lord High Executioner).

From a comic “I’ve Got A Little List”, to the haunting “On A Tree By A River”, his professional experience was strikingly evident.

This was a virtuoso and exuberant performance which, besides commanding audience attention, lifted everyone on stage.

Secondly was youthful Aran Ibbotson as Nanki-Poo, the Mikado’s ‘wand’ring minstrel’ son, although he seemed more at ease when singing with others, especially in a foot-tapping “Here’s A How-De-Do”, than in his solos.

But he was not greatly helped by his costumes, more appropriate for Peter Pan than Japan.

The third debutant was Jonathan Forrest whose towering stage presence as The Mikado provided the feeling that he really was Emperor of Japan.

The “Three Little Maids From School”, Louise King (Yum-Yum), Alison King (Pitti-Sing) and Margot Miller (Peep-Bo), giggled, shuffled and twirled their umbrellas effectively, with Louise and Alison also making the most of their solo numbers.

The distinctive voices of veteran Peter Tucknott (Pooh-Bah), and Sarah Hall (Katisha), together with an enthusiastic chorus, plus Douglas Morgan’s sensitive lighting, and the orchestra under the seasoned baton of John Howes, all enhanced this uplifting production.

Having recruited new talent, the Society seems set for an exciting future.