Opera Della Luna’s new interpretation of The Mikado was immediately defined by its bold, brightly-coloured set and colourful, highly stylised costumes (which became more and more surreal as the performance went on). This made the performance striking from the start, even for those of us sitting “up in the Gods,” and gave it a larger-than-life quality.
The pretext for these spectacular costumes was that the piece was set in the modern day Japanese fashion industry, allowing for bright pink wigs, hooped skirts and at one point, even a bright green kilt – although I personally felt that Katisha’s costume in the second half was maybe a step too far: her sparkling golden dress was so bright that it was actually distracting, making it very difficult to see what was happening on her side of the stage without being blinded by it, and it was such a far cry from her costume in the first act that any newcomer who was unfamiliar with the piece might struggle to figure out who she was supposed to be.
This was a creative interpretation which enjoyed playing with the words of the original libretto, with a bit of ad-libbing away from the script, in-jokes and a generally playful take on the operetta. This made it more fun and fresh for the audience – many of whom were clearly very familiar with the play, and knew the original jokes well.
I particularly enjoyed the rendition of the songs in this production, especially the idea of splitting the lines up in ‘our great Mikado, virtuous man…’ and I was impressed that the troupe had re-written not one but two of the songs to make them more topical. Koko’s “Little List” was very amusing, with reference to celebrities, public figures and ‘that singular anomaly, the Scottish nationalist’ which had the audience in hoots. The Mikado’s adapted version of ‘to make the punishment fit the crime’ was equally imaginative, but slightly less audible from the back of the theatre, which was a pity. The song ‘here’s a how-de-do’ was performed several times in quick succession, each time faster than before (a bit of a G&S convention) with the addition of some birds, a lawnmower and an intentionally disastrous dance routine.
In general, the acting was of a high standard, although I felt a couple of the actors occasionally sounded a bit bored whilst delivering their lines – perhaps another side-effect of being too familiar with the piece? All the songs were performed enthusiastically, and the dancing was smooth, quirky and amusing.