Richard Munday as Nanki-Poo and David Mckechnie as Ko-Ko

The Mikado

Malvern Theatres


Purists will find this production of a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta very painful! This show does not follow the traditional interpretations and style of such productions, but for those who accept that starting point, the evening does provide a barrel of good laughs.

The evening is reminiscent of an end-of-term sketch or ‘house supper’ entertainment at Christmas in boarding schools, ‘taking the mick’ out of the traditional approach, but with the important difference that this was professionally done and very clever.

‘The Mikado’ has a typically superficial and romantic plot that is an excuse for the songs and music. The songs are catchy tunes with witty use of language and rhyme that have provided memorable lines and quotations in our culture. ‘Make the punishment fit the crime!’ we hear.

Originally the story is set in Japan, but this production sets it in a scouts’ campsite somewhere in England in all probability. Nanki-Poo is the son of the ruling dictator, the Mikado, but runs off in disguise to escape an arranged marriage to the large, imposing and intimidating Katisha, a substantial unit of the court. She is an ‘acquired taste’!

He falls in love with the young and beautiful Yum-Yum but this is fraught with challenges in the form of Ko-Ko who is about to marry her. In the event a deal is struck and Nanki-Poo is about to marry her on condition that he is executed after a month of marriage.  


David Mckechnie as Ko-Ko, on a roll so to speak

The plot then goes through a few contortions until all ends happily. There are no real villains and the romantic attachments are largely rewarded.

By choosing an all-male cast, the creative team are setting the foundations of a send-up of the traditional G&S show. The scene at the start of Act Two when the guys, in falsetto voices and with their scouts’ shorts adapted with added female ornamentation, are enacting a pampering scene before Yum-Yum’s wedding, which is reminiscent of a ‘hen party’ that has opted for a health spa as a venue. The pedicures, the makeup, the massages are all sent up for laughs and contribute to the hilarity.

There is a coherent design and creativity to the show that is thoroughly professional, witty and effective. The campsite with the mobile tents against a background of tall trees in the forest is incongruous but works well and is flexibly used. The cast are dressed in scout’s’ or cubs’ khaki shorts. The music is provided, not with an orchestra, but with a single piano and the actors’ voices.

The choreography, the tableaux and the vocal renderings are quite farcical in their style while retaining a high standard of harmonisation and balance.

The performances of Alex Weatherhill as Katisha, James Ward as The Mikado, and David McKechnie as Ko-Ko in the second half, are particularly memorable and funny. The show gathered momentum in the second half and there were some delightful touches in the scenes with Katisha and Ko-Ko.  

Purists and traditionalists, beware! This show will offend your sensibilities. For the regular punters who just want a clever and witty piece of entertainment, you will enjoy this evening out at the theatre. Bring your friends along for a good laugh! To 08-07-17

Tim Crow


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