The Three Maids Are Fab
BRISBANE: If you think you’ve seen Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, think again. Opera Queensland’s latest production takes a bold, daring and approach on this favourite of the Savoy Operas, writes Alistair Sutton.
“This is a universal piece poking fun at the foibles of human nature, which is timeless,” says director Stuart Maunder of Queensland Opera’s bold new production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. “The show has a brilliant design by Simone Romaniuk referencing all that Japan has generously bequeathed to modern pop culture: FRUiTS fashion, Hello Kitty, plastic stuffed toys and micro-technology. Just as the Japanese do now, we can also use the traditional clothing for special occasions, such as Yum Yum's wedding dress.”
The Mikado is set in the fictional town of Titipu where flirting has become a capital crime punishable by death. Nanki-Poo, son of the Mikado (the Emperor of Japan), has fled his father’s imperial court to escape certain marriage with Katisha, the resident court cougar. Disguised as a travelling musician,
Nanki-Poo falls in love with Yum-Yum, the young ward of Ko-Ko, a low-cost tailor to whom she is betrothed. Ko-Ko is also the Lord High Executioner, who receives news The Mikado wants to know why there have been no executions in Titipu. The complex plot depicts a Japan that was never meant to reflect reality while Sullivan’s music is at its vibrant best. No wonder this operetta has remained a popular favourite since it was first performed in 1885.
“During World War II, the famous comedian of the JC Williamson Company – Ivan Menzies – refused to perform The Mikado out of sympathy for the war effort!” Maunder tells Queensland Pride. “Ridiculous, this show is British to the core. Modern-day Australian audiences can enjoy the satire on the class system, love of bureaucracy, the military, politicians; all those classic Victorian sacred cows. Gilbert and Sullivan is still relevant today because those sacred cows are still with us, they are just fatter!”
Maunder makes no distinction between notions of high or low brow theatre. “Musical theatre will always be with us, in whatever form happens to be popular in the day. As Richard Bonynge said, ‘Operas are just old musicals’.”
Maunder believes the genre has an assured future. “Good music will always be transformative: just get a whole lot of people in a theatre, all laughing, crying, what could be better than that?” he says. Audiences will get a vibrant theatre experience with glorious music and a talented cast. And the final word from Maunder on the show? “Well, it’ll be camp! Just look at those Little Maids in the poster!”
The Mikado opens June 7 at the Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University, South Bank for a strictly limited season before touring regional Queensland. Bookings: qtix 136 246 or online www.qtix.com.au