The Mikado

Mar 15 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆    Solid

King’s Theatre: Tue 12 – Sat 16 Mar 2019
Review by Thom Dibdin

There are big ambitions and some sparkling moments to Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society’s latest take on The Mikado, which at the King’s Theatre all week to Saturday.

This is very much a Mikado as you would expect it to be. Paul Lazell’s scenery is emblematically Japanese, there are no hidden surprises of modern dress in Molly Limpets’ costumes and no updating of the Victorian background or gimmicky presentation in Alan Borthwick’s direction.

Sam Selbie and Jennifer Murrah. Pic Ross Main

The full EdGAS chorus is in strong voice, the soloists are glistening and the 28-strong band, under the precise direction of David Lyle, gives a thoroughly assured and expressive account of Sullivan’s music.

If there is no updating, it still has certain amount of contemporary political heft. Not just in Ko-Ko’s list of those who would not be missed, but in the general comedy which relies on politicians who give no real value to their public office and simply use it as a way of lining their own pockets.

The convoluted plot is told with suitable clarity. Sam Selbie sings Nanki-Poo, a wandering minstrel who arrives in Titipu to woo the beautiful Yum Yum (Jennifer Murray), ward of Ko-Ko (Colin Povey), a tailor who has been condemned to death for the capital offence of flirting.

Unfortunately for Nanki-Poo, Ko-Ko has been elevated to the office of Lord High Executioner, on the not unreasonable understanding that, given the number of unreasonable capital offences dreamed up by the Mikado, he can not execute anyone else until he executes himself. Which is unlikely to happen.

excellent shifts

Now Ko-Ko is free to marry his ward, at least according to the Lord High Chancellor – Pooh Bah (Simon Boothroyd). Who is, in fact, the only remaining Lord High anything, as every other official has resigned at having to defer to such a low individual as an ex-tailor. Leaving Pooh Bah to take on all their jobs – and their salaries.

Simon Boothroyd and Colin Povey. Pic Ross Main

While Selbie and Murray make sure that the romance wanders along in all the right ways, Povey and Boothroyd put in excellent shifts as Ko-Ko and Pooh Bah, adding the real high points of the production.

The first of these comes in Povey’s delivery of As some day it may happen, in which Ko-Ko reels of a list of those who would not be missed if they were to be executed.

This is traditionally an opportunity for the performer and company to stamp their own mark on the production, creating a list of contemporary politicians and celebrities that is both humorous and biting. In the week when Westminster reached something of a nadir in its Brexit voting, Povey does not disappoint. “Soon Britain will not exist,” he finishes, “I doubt it will be missed”.

Povey delights throughout – and his rendition of On A Tree by a River, a little Tom-tit, is utterly poignant, if not quite mining the comic effects of the deeply maudlin death by broken heart of the bird crying Willow, Tit Willow, that he might.


Despite a rather facile recurring physical joke about his Pooh Bay’s size, Boothroyd ensures that all the convolutions of the role are well delineated.

Barbara Scott. Pic Ross Main

The big set pieces of the show – particularly in the second half – are delivered with some nice little twists to keep them fresh, while maintaining their essence. In these, Claire Lumsden as Piti-Sing, another ward of Ko-Ko, is particularly clear and puts in a performance to be relished.

And yet, in a production which boasts a chorus of 46, there is an unfortunate hesitancy at times. It is as if the company was not completely at home with its material. Indeed, there are not a few times where the chorus fails to give as much weight to its enunciation of the words as it might.

Which is a significant failing when it comes to Gilbert and Sullivan – It’s one thing not be able to make out what the latest young pop star is saying on stage, but when it comes to the words of Mr Gilbert, enunciation and comprehension are prerequisites to a great, rather than a good, night out.

Running time: Two hours and 45 minutes (including one interval)
King’s Theatre 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ.Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Tuesday 12 – Saturday 16 March 2019.
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinee Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.
EdGAS website:
Facebook: @EdinburghGilbertSullivan,

The EdGAS Mikado 2019 company. Pic Ross Main


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Comments (3)

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  1. Rosemary Kaye says:

    I agree Thom, the only problem I had with this production was the enunciation, and that is indeed a problem with a G & S operetta. I loved Povey’s Ko-Ko, he did a great job and really was the star for me.

  2. Alex Gibson says:

    If a reviewer is going to criticise on the basis of enunciation and comprehension, then perhaps it would be wise to proof read before posting. Leaving aside for the moment, the inaccuracies in punctuation and spelling, we come to the “the words of Mr. Sullivan”?

    W. S. Gilbert will be annoyed,