Sasha Regan’s all-male productions of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas have been delighting audiences and have been celebrated all over the world. This isn’t the first time Regan has staged an all-male version of The Mikado, but this version comes to Wilton’s Music Hall with some subtle changes.
This particular G&S classic has become problematic for anyone wanting to revive it, Regan swerves all of this by setting it in England and thus satirising the establishment even more blatantly than the original did with its heavy Oriental styles.
There’s a lone tent on stage with a backdrop of trees, and we find ourselves in the midst of a boys camping trip – a private school or Scout troupe perhaps. Some neat changes to the opening number, ‘If you want to know who we are’ helps set the scene. As night falls the dressing up box comes out and the familiar tale begins to unfold.
We’re still in a city called Titipu, but any reference to geography is removed and the names of the characters are anglicised; the lowly tailor elevated to Lord High Executioner becomes Mr Cocoa, the wandering minstrel with royal roots becomes Bertie Hugh and the man taking on every office of state is now Albert Barr.
There are of course the female characters too, the whole point of this show is that every character is portrayed by a male, so Bertie Hugh chases the hand of Miss Violet Plumb, while avoiding his already betrothed Kitty Shaw.
Things get off to a flying start, as Declan Egan (Bertie Hugh) stuns the audience with a divine rendition of ‘A wand’ring minstrel I’, Egan sets a high bar with such impressive vocals, but they are soon matched by Sam Kipling, displaying a superb soprano voice throughout.
It’s high camp and high comedy all round, though Regan doesn’t necessarily exploit the camp aspects for the sake of it, everything is played as if this really were a group of teenage boys acting out a story in the wilderness. David McKechnie provides much of the humour as Mr Cocoa, while Lewis Kennedy delights as The Mikado.
With all of the glorious singing happening on stage, it’s easy to forget that the cast are accompanied by a lone piano, played by musical director Anto Buckley, who succeeds in making it sound as though he were a full company of musicians.
These all-male productions certainly breathe new life into the originals, but this seems especially true with The Mikado, which is a clever, funny and downright enjoyable reinterpretation of an operetta that could easily have been consigned to the history books.
Sasha Regan’s All-Male The Mikado is at Wilton’s Music Hall until 1st July 2023.